How to Bust Through Communication Barriers
Maintaining effective communication is a constant challenge in today’s world. According to an Interact/Harris Poll, 91% of employees say communication issues prevent effective leadership. In spite of having all kinds of incredible innovations and technologies that support opportunities for strong communication, it’s clear leaders struggle on many levels—and in very basic ways. We may unintentionally offend someone in an email because we fail to really read what’s been written and how it could be perceived. Or we may choose to skirt challenges and confrontation, choosing to discuss something serious or tricky in nature by texting versus having a more productive, face-to-face conversation. To be a great leader, however, requires role modeling positive and empowering communication behaviors, such as those offered in MAP’s free “Effective Communication Checklist.” If you even sense you could improve upon your communication skills, explore the barriers and ax any possible excuses you may be making in this area of your leadership and commit to improving today!
Here’s how you can dive in and do better:
1. Identify What Needs To Change
The best way to do this is to get feedback around your communication style. Determine what’s not working—do you talk more than you listen? Do you avoid eye contact during tough conversations? Do you tend to SHOUT sometimes in your email or written communications? There are lots of ways you can get the facts around your communication behaviors, everything from anonymous feedback to simply asking respected, honest co-workers or a mentor for their insights. It will take some guts to go through this sometimes humbling discovery process. But it’s a must-do if you want to improve upon your communication style and grow this aspect of your leadership responsibility.
2. Tear Down Barriers
When you know what needs to change, you may feel resistance or a “barrier” to that change. In fact, it’s quite likely that will happen because change is hard for countless reasons. At MAP, we’ve noticed some of the most common barriers result when there’s a lack of respect by either party for another person, intimidation exists, emotions are ignored, or there are preconceptions brought to the conversation. In our “Effective Communication Checklist,” we also outline these and a number of other barriers to communication that leaders typically experience. If these challenges aren’t dealt with properly and for good, they will continue to crop up and be problematic so it’s imperative to acknowledge, own (if appropriate) and address them.
3. Make Effective Communication A Vital Goal
If you’ve found that how you communicate needs help, formally commit to address it, making “be a great communicator” one of your vital goals. This will be something you write into an official professional development plan (e.g., MAP’s professional development plan template). Under that goal, assign activities to support it and build in accountability by creating ways to track and measure your progress. Then get even more strategic: Build greater accountability by sharing your goal and strategies with someone who can coach you and provide objective feedback on any shortcomings or successes. This may be your MAP consultant or someone within your organization you trust. Point is, when the goal is a vital one, stay focused and stay motivated.
How have you successfully overcome a communication barrier in the past?