As a leader, you must lead the communications in your team.

If you are not setting the tone and context for your company wide communications, you are setting up your team to fail. And fail unnecessarily. This is costly – employees and leaders are unhappy and you will lose out on the opportunities for true innovation and profits.

What do I mean by tone and context?
Please entertain the following main categories of communications or conversations that occur in your company:

. Debates for Effectiveness
These are debates between two or more parties about what will make a difference or cause a result. The tone may be argumentative.

Pros: Possible to create results.
Cons: Can devolve into nonsense if not managed.

. Debates for Right and Wrong
These are debates between two or more parties – the difference is that in this case, the intention is not to make a difference, but to make someone or something wrong. There is little conversation about resolution of differences or moving forward.

Pros: Very little – can be a venting platform.
Cons: Can devolve into sabotage in the long term if not managed.

. Dialectic – Search for the Truth
These are conversations that may be more calm and straight – the intention is to seek the truth or the facts clarified.

Pros: Tend to be calmer conversations with a greater chance for long term effectiveness.
Cons: Can devolve into paralysis by analysis.

. Conversations that Make a Difference
These are conversations based on the question “What can we do or what are our options for resolving or making a positive difference?”

Pros: Generally the best kind of conversation to have.
Cons: If the leader tries to ‘force’ this conversation, people on the team may not feel heard.

. Conversations for Resolution of a Breakdown or Upset
These are conversations that are necessary to have in the event of any breakdown (problem or challenge) or upset.
This should not be stepped over by the leader. Either handle it yourself or train / delegate others to handle for you.

Pros: Phew! The Best Thing In The World To Handle Right Away! – employees are happy and things move forward.
Cons: You have to spend time up front. But this up front time will likely be less time spent than the costly time wasted in the future. Not to mention the potential loss of good employees and leaders.

. Conversations for Venting
These are mostly ‘one sided’ conversations – where one of the parties must do the listening. This listening must not be ‘ear service’ but indicate a genuine interest in the other person’s situation(s).

Pros: Employees and Leaders either have to let go of the situation OR give up complaining about you or your leadership.
Cons: Can devolve if the person keeps going on. Mitigation? Put a time limit politely on venting. This can be done politely and powerfully.

. Polemics
This can be the worse type of conversation unless you have a genuine ‘enemy’. This is a conversation to ‘destroy’ an enemy – no doubt. Sometimes necessary – but must be very clear and wisely chosen opportunity.

Pros: Can shut down an ‘enemy’.
Cons:Can backfire terribly if your points misheard.

Which conversations do you need to have now with your team?

Next Actions:
1. Get coaching on how to master these communications.
2. Train your team to have them as well.

Sunil Bhaskaran
Executive Leadership Coach
San Jose, Santa Cruz, Capitola, CA

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