Living in these times we need true leadership more than anything. We need this on the world stage, within our local communities, and at home. Real leadership isn’t about having a fancy title, big office, or the amount of authority we hold. It’s a conscious attitude, demeanor, and ability to bring out the very best in those we serve. This includes the way we go about engaging with others.
To be an effective leader one must develop strong communication skills. Human beings are social creatures, so it only seems fitting that we learn to develop these skills to use in our daily lives. The guiding communication principles employed in the corporate setting to motivate the team before the big product launch are the same ones used to get your four-year-old to clean up his toys before bedtime. The main difference would be the manner in which you communicate the intended message.
Here are five things you need to know about communicating with purpose:
1. Be a Good Listener Being an effective leader means having the ability and willingness to address the wants and needs of those in your charge. It means putting aside pride and ego for a moment and allowing the other person to speak.
During this time we must listen – to listen – and actually comprehend the meaning and intention of the message being conveyed, rather than simply waiting for our turn to retort.
2. Be Authentic Be open, be genuine, and be who you really are. Nobody likes an authority figure who wears a mask or comes off as being fake. People aren’t stupid and they can easily spot an imposter. Don’t be afraid to admit your flaws, after all, you’re only human. Show who you really are and people will respect and love you for it.
3. Make Your Intentions Clear Say what you mean and mean what you say. State what you want clearly and appropriately. Whether you’re directing a subordinate or collaborator on next steps of the project, redirecting a young child to encourage appropriate behavior, or having those private and more intimate moments with a partner; choose direct communication over ambiguity. Never assume the other person knows what you want.
Maybe you feel that the other person should know and perhaps you can even provide ample justification to support your stance, but at the end of the day those are simply your feelings and that doesn’t necessarily correlate with the reality of whether that person actually knows. That being said, do yourself a favor and make your intentions clear from the beginning.
4. Speak to Empower Think about the people around you. There are countless individuals who look to you for advice and turn to you for suggestions. Not to mention the fact that there are probably many others who quietly observe your behavior but may be too timid to ask for help.
Maybe they’re currently going through some trial or tribulation that you’ve already overcome, yet they are embarrassed to ask for help. Become a keen observer of the world around you and provide words of encouragement following a job well done. Praise the individual(s) responsible or the team as a whole and make the celebration about their efforts not about your ego.
If you notice someone struggling, then offer guidance while still allowing the person to take responsibility by tending to the completion of the task. Doing so will empower the person with regard to the current situation and boost confidence for future obstacles.
5. Lead By Example In the words of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, “well done is better than well said.” Don’t be a man who only talks of the things he will do. Be the man who takes initiative and does them. Allow your actions and deeds to speak for you.
Make sure to walk your talk. We’ve all witnessed that person whose words and actions weren’t congruent. That person didn’t maintain the “lead by example” motto but rather the hypocritical stance of “do as I say and not as I do.”
If you’ve ever known someone who operated from this position then take a moment to think about what was actually being communicated. Whatever it was, it probably wasn’t anything good. Be the man whose actions and deeds are conveying the right message to the intended recipient.
Incorporate these simple practices into your daily life and start communicating in a more purposeful and meaningful way. Be mindful of the fact that I chose to use the word “practice” for a reason. These are things that we must do consistently to perform with clear and conscious intent.
Leadership styles have evolved over the decades. In the 1980s leadership was closer to the military command-and-control approach, or dominant structure, “with big, bold decision- making”.
Then, the emergence of tech companies in the late 90s and early 2000s led to the development of a younger leadership style, with leaders “more open to ideas, more collaborative and very fast moving”. Today, thanks in part to globalization, leadership has become more holistic in that it is “far more multicultural, more exposed to different cultures, attitudes and environments”.
The quotes above come fromJon Hazan, an event director and executive coach. Jon gave our students insights into the major trends in leadership styles over the years, in a fascinating presentation that was part of our Leading Hospitality Through Turbulent Times series.
Jon’s own career has also mirrored some of these changes, as he has been exposed to a number of different leadership styles:
Jon started out as an officer in a tank regiment in the British Army (“This exposed me to the military, or dominant, style of leadership: quite leader-oriented, decision- making under critical and pressured circumstances, very time-precious”);
Then he moved into events management, developing corporate teams globally (“A fascinating fusion of the military style of leadership within a corporate context”);
More recently, he has qualified as an executive coach, working with corporate clients. (“Most importantly, this has introduced me to another style of leadership, perhaps more pertinent to today’s world: more empathetic, more understanding and a more holistic approach”).
“It’s been quite a personal journey for me,” Jon told the students. “Experiencing these different styles of leadership with some incredible results along the way.”
He went on to discuss the importance of emotional intelligence for today’s leaders (“essentially the ability to recognize not only your own emotions but those of others in your team and workplace”) and how there had been a “seismic shift” from the military style of leadership to today’s holistic approach. He added, “Personally, I put EQ (emotional quotient) down as a foundation for the coaching style of leadership and for building better, more resilient teams.”
In terms of the modern workplace and the zeitgeist, Jon said he believes that “building a resilient, close-knit team also delivers a far higher level of productivity, mental health, wellbeing and engagement”. He added that leaders have to communicate clear goals, so their teams understand what they are trying to achieve. And in terms of management, they need to “clear obstacles from their path, develop team members and review their progress. All are critical skills for a leader in the modern workplace”.
Four levels of coaching development
Jon highlighted four levels of coaching development that apply both in the workplace and in our daily lives (listed in no order of importance):
Skills – applying coaching methods to improve an individual’s or team’s skill levels (e.g. public speaking)
Performance – improved through coaching. “Again, it’s an art form”
Developmental – improve management skills through “strong mentoring or coaching to bring out the best of the individual. Then it comes back to engagement; that positive strength and performance we hope to achieve in our team”
Transformational — “Clients come to us looking to transform their lives. It sounds melodramatic, but it can apply to life or executive coaching. Seeking balanced processes and fulfillment in your life is incredibly important – and a coach will help guide you through that process”
Jon went on to highlight four key coaching skills (again, listed in no order of importance):
“This is mission critical to a coach.” He noted three levels:
Autobiographical — “You might be talking to a friend or colleague, but what they’re saying is instantly being translated by you into personal experience. You’re not truly listening to what they’re saying as you might be dying to impart knowledge or experience to this person.”
Client — “You’re listening at a far more engaged level and absorbing what they’re saying without thinking of a response from your own personal perspective.”
Environmental — “You’re not just listening to what they’re saying, you’re listening to how they say it, the words they use, and observing their body language. All of that you can translate into a more meaningful discussion.”
Using open questions which don’t end with a simple yes or no. For example, ‘how do you do this?’ or ‘what do you think about this?’
Avoiding challenging questions, since the ‘why?’ question can immediately put someone on the back foot and make them more defensive. (‘Why did you do that..?’ is more challenging than ‘how did you approach that..?’) So, we try to avoid the use of ‘why?’, although sometimes the ‘why’ question can be the right one to ask, twinned perhaps with a pause to allow them to reflect and answer it in their own way.”
Listening to what the client or colleague is saying, picking up on that one key word and reflecting it back. The use of a word like ‘stressful’ could be the “lynchpin to that conversation”.
An incredibly powerful tool. It’s the ability to pick out and focus on key elements as it allows for clarity and brings out a more productive conversation.
He concluded, “Listening, questioning, reflecting, and summarizing can be used in everyday life as well as the workplace. You don’t have to be too formulaic or rigorous with it. I challenge you to think more about how you format your questions. Probably listening is the critical skill.”
“In closing, being a coach as a leader is a challenge,” Jon said. “I thought I knew everything there was to know about coaching, but I had a rude awakening and realized how little I actually applied those coaching skills as a leader.”
He added that this was the driver for him to seek training and a qualification from a coaching body. “I would encourage you to find your personal leadership style. It’s only authentic if it’s true to you. Find your own path, enjoy the journey and build some incredibly strong relationships. Fulfilled, engaged teams await.”
Jon Hazan on coaching vs. mentoring
Although coaching and mentoring are both critical management tools, aimed at “optimizing people’s potential and performance”, Jon noted that mentoring “tends to be a one-way process” with the mentee – often a junior member of the organization – choosing a mentor – a more senior, possibly C-suite, member of the organization – to guide them through their learning and development journey. So, the mentee goes to them with questions and seeks solutions.
The coaching relationship, however, is what we call ‘co-active’. There’s no assumed knowledge and the coach doesn’t have to be in the same industry or the same organization. It’s the coachee, or client, that sets the agenda as they choose the topic to discuss. They own the process and it’s the coachee who finds the solution, not a mentor telling them how to do it.
“Coaching allows greater ownership of the process and, if you own the process, you’re going to be more engaged.”
There are times, however, when coaching is not the right approach. Jon added, “If you’re dealing with time-critical decisions, coaching is not the way to go. Coaching is very collaborative and time-consuming as it’s a process of change that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey.”
He singled out, in terms of collaborative techniques, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson’s approach to the crisis, in demonstrating to his team and associates the importance of time-critical decision-making. “He laid out a plan. He talked about the impact of the current crisis on the business in clear, certain terms; but he also did it in a very empathetic manner. He understood what they’d be going through and that brought a level of understanding and trust in his workforce.”
Ideally, then, leaders should seek to develop their teams before a crisis occurs. “Coaching is a long-term relationship. If it starts at the beginning of that relationship, it can build very strong foundations within that one-on-one relationship or team environment. This means that, when the crisis occurs, you’ve got a strong, resilient team. You understand the strengths and weaknesses within your team and you can apply it to the crisis.”
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