Incredibly, nearly 70% of leaders say they are often uncomfortable communicating with employees. That’s according to an Interact/Harris Poll conducted in 2015. And even more shocking, a similar poll conducted in 2017 indicates that 91% of employees feel that their managers lack good communication skills. It appears that leadership communication skill is worsening over time.
In view of these sobering statistics, what can a leader do? He or she can focus on becoming a Conversationally Intelligent Leader, by using skills and strategies identified by management consultant Judith E. Glaser.
A leader’s job isn’t about managing things; it’s about managing and leading people. Great leaders build trust with those they lead, and it’s that trust which enables them to create success through the collective efforts of the team. Trust is built not through power, fear or a relentless drive for results – rather, it’s created through relationships. Relationships grow in an environment of open, honest and caring communication.
Conversationally Intelligent leadership is an intentional approach to creating and enhancing an environment of trust. It’s an ongoing practice, not a “one and done” quick fix. Mastering two specific strategies will set you on the path to Conversationally Intelligent leadership.
Listening to Connect: How do you listen? More importantly, what are you listening for? Are you listening for information that you can accept or reject? Or, are you listening to learn and discover? Conversationally Intelligent leaders listen to connect by asking many open-ended questions and setting aside any pre-formulated expectations. They do much more listening than talking, as a result, immersing themselves in the other person’s reality.
Staying off the Ladder of Conclusions: It’s a natural human trait to make assumptions based on experiences. How many times have you made an assumption based on something that’s happened before, evoking a cascade of emotions and reactions? “They’ve missed the deadline – again. They just don’t get it!” “John’s been unusually quiet. I think he’s planning to leave.” In each of these situations, the leader has climbed the “Ladder of Conclusions” by answering the unknown “why” with an assumption rooted in the past. Conversationally Intelligent leaders stay off this ladder by evaluating every situation as new and unique. They ask “What is true?” “How do I know it to be true?” and “What should I do based on what’s true?”
Mastery of these two fundamental skills will open the door to more practices that will deepen your Conversationally Intelligent leadership savvy. These include Regulating in the Moment (especially valuable for challenging conversations), Aligning Intention and Impact and Priming for Trust. As you become more Conversationally Intelligent, you’ll find your team members opening up more often – because they trust you. And that’s the basis for leadership success.
Want to help your organization’s leaders become more Conversationally Intelligent? Learn about our workshops, including The Conversationally Intelligent Leader.