As you are Connecting the Dots for your team, it is essential to keep these guidelines in mind:
The key to effective listening is to start with the belief that the person speaking has value. Many of us get caught up in our thought process, of how we are going to respond to the first thing we hear, that we miss most of the message. We want to slow down our automatic thinking and engage in listening. One simple way is to put down the phone and pick up a pen and take notes. The act of note-taking provides us with a way to slow down our thought process and stay in the moment. Active listening also demonstrates how we interact with the person talking to us. Project a listening body language in terms of eye contact and attention given to the person who is speaking.
Acknowledge others and what you hear them say, even if you don’t understand, agree with or accept it. In this, you allow the speaker to feel heard, a major human need and an excellent way to open the door to meaningful conversation. When you acknowledge someone else, you open the door to being acknowledged by others.
Start with the goal in mind. This means stating the intent of the conversation up-front.
- I’d like to talk to you about…
- I’d like your opinion on…
- I’d like to work together on how to solve…
- I‘m wondering how you’re feeling about….
Stating the intent encourages the other person to open up (rather than worrying about where you might be going with this conversation). It helps everyone stay focused on information and opinion relevant to the issue at hand. Always listen (reflect and probe if necessary) to understand the other’s intent.
Using questions is an effective leadership method to influence, acknowledge, challenge and help others help themselves. Here are tips to use questions for maximum effectiveness.
- Use open-ended questions, “How,” or “What do you think,” etc. instead of yes/ no.
- Use non-judgmental questions. “How can we work together more efficiently to solve this challenge?”
- Seek to understand their point of view better. If you do not agree or understand, ask them to clarify: “Tell me more so I can better understand, as I am not there yet.”
- Be sure that your questions are connecting them to the future, not causing them to defend their past. “If you had the same situation tomorrow, how would you approach it, knowing what you know now?
Articulate Ideas and Feelings
You have just as much responsibility as a Sender of communication, as you do as a Receiver. Good disclosure invites discussion. State your opinion and your assumptions. This is more difficult than you might think, but it makes it much easier for people to understand your views and creates constructive dialog. For example, My assumption is that we are wanting to leverage “product x” and therefore I believe we should double our investment in “product x” marketing.
As the leader of the team, you are accountable not only to articulate your message, you are also accountable to be sure that the message has been heard and understood. We all listen through our own belief filter, so utilizing questions and engaging in dialog ensures that you and your team leave the meeting on the same page.
With technology and social media, communication is easier and more complicated at the same time. Consistency of message, and the utilization of multiple methods, is key to ensuring the message gets heard. Alignment of the message across all methods is critical, but so is the alignment between internal messaging to your team and what goes outside of your team. The more you align your message around your goals, strategy and philosophy, the easier it is for your messages to be aligned.