Warren Buffett once told a group of business students, “Improving your communication skills will increase your professional value by 50%–instantly.”

Think about that, what would your impact be if you could instantly increase your value by 50%?

We coach hundreds of leaders all over the world. Most would rank themselves quite high in their communication skills. And yet when we dig a bit deeper, we hear things that greatly impact their effectiveness.

What about you? How would you rate your communication skills?

Consider these statements:

  • I have a great awareness of what others are thinking and feeling.
  • Before speaking, I reflect on the most effective way to reach my audience.
  • I give my full attention to every conversation.
  • I take time to ensure my listener understands the context before presenting plans and ideas.
  • I set aside my biases when listening to others’ opinions.
  • I ask unbiased questions to fully understand another person’s perspective.
  • I use empathy to form connections with people.

When we ask leaders to rate themselves in each of these statements, they are often surprised with the results of this exploration. It becomes clear they might be having an unintended negative impact on their team, and they quickly become conscious of ways they can increase their effectiveness.

Why Communication Skills are Important

Communication is not a ‘soft skill’. Someone who is a master communicator has far more impact and influence. The quality of conversations leaders engage in with their teams has a huge impact on their ability to move through change. Their teams are more engaged, innovative and agile. Their teams get better results.

What’s possible for your business if you could have teams who are innovative, agile, engaged, and can move through change effectively?

Studies have shown that companies with highly effective communications are three and a half times more likely to significantly outperform their industry peers than firms that are not effective. (Towers Watson 2013-2014 Change and Communication ROI Study Report)

What’s possible for your business if you have an entire leadership team that are great communicators?

Relationship Intelligence Makes Good Business Sense

We created the RQ Relationship Intelligence tool because we know how important communication is to leadership and overall business success.

We understand how important it is to explore all five dimensions of great communication; Conversation, Safe Haven, Generosity, Candor, and Transparency in order to hone in on the areas that require more consciousness and effort to increase your effectiveness.

Through insights and practical application leaders can quickly increase their communication skills.

Why Conversation is a Fundamental Part of Leadership

Conversation is the starting point for the different dimensions of RQ as well as the most technique-based aspect.

We explore three layers in the dimension of conversation; 1. Listening, questioning, and speaking, 2. Being engaged and attentive, and 3. Having purposeful conversations. Mastering these three layers helps you excel at engaging in conversations no matter the context.

Someone who has become a master of conversation has a great awareness of what people around them are thinking and feeling. They excel at speaking clearly, listening attentively and without bias, and asking great questions that drive deeper understanding. They have highly engaged conversations that lead to positive outcomes, and they demonstrate a genuine interest in the other person. Overall, someone who is great at conversation is seen as an empathic leader. They connect with and communicate with their teams better, and this leads to a higher level of impact and influence.

Active Listening

As human beings, we all have biases. Those biases act as filters through which we view the world. We listen through these biased filters, which impacts what we hear and how we respond.

I’m sure at one time or another you have heard one or all of the following statements:

  • You get what you look for!
  • You see what you want to see!
  • You hear what you want to hear!
  • You believe what you want to believe!

Confirmation bias was coined by English psychologist Peter Wason and is defined as, “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values.”  Wason also identified that it is difficult to disconnect from your bias once affirmed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

Think about confirmation bias in terms of business impact. Every single one of us has biases and we are looking to confirm that our perspective is the right one. Each leader on your team is bringing those biases to the table, unconsciously. So, each of these leaders is potentially looking and listening for evidence that supports their own beliefs and rejecting any evidence that does not align with their beliefs.  Times that by the number of people sitting at your leadership table and that is very powerful!

Now consider this alternative world. Each person on your leadership team is aware of the biases they are bringing to the table. They take that into consideration, perhaps even naming them when they come up. They then set them aside to listen more openly to the information that is being shared. They ask questions to gain deeper understanding, they challenge their own and other people’s thinking until the team comes up with the best decision using all the information that is available to them. Now that’s powerful!

We cannot make our biases go away, they are deeply engrained…we can only become conscious of them and manage them. And one technique is to use active listening skills.

Active listening is the way of being that seeks to understand and explore with curiosity, not to solve the other person’s problem, but to truly understand and view it through a new lens.

By practicing active listening, leaders have experienced the following benefits:

  • More clarity in goal setting and general content of communication
  • Improved and intensified relationships due to people feeling ‘heard’
  • Changes in perspective due to being open to new information
  • Improved level of commitment and productivity within their team due to an environment of trust and psychological safety

Active listening is a key leadership skill and is one of the most powerful tools you possess as a leader.

Powerful questions

We have all been subject to a leader who asks questions in such a way that we know they are looking for us to agree with them. They throw out an idea and then ask the question, “What do you think? It’s a great idea isn’t it?” How is someone supposed to answer that question? Does that question invite discussion? Does that question suggest that there might be other factors to consider? Does that question make you feel like providing a different perspective?

Anyone who has taken coach training or received coaching in a leadership development program knows the power of asking questions for which you do not know the answer. A question that can’t be answered with a Yes or a No. A question that doesn’t lead the other person to agree with your way of thinking about something.

Leaders experience the following when they engage in the practice of asking powerful questions:

  • Surface underlying assumptions and biases which might be unconsciously impacting the situation
  • Provoke thought and curiosity which leads to creativity and new solutions
  • Generate energy and ability to move things forward quickly and more effectively
  • Channel the attention and focus on the real issue at hand
  • Turn difficult conversations into reflective exercises that effect change

Using powerful questions reveals information that you would not otherwise know, which in turn allows you to be better informed, make better decisions, and build stronger relationships.

Active Engagement

Consider the last time you asked for someone’s time to have an important conversation and you could tell they were distracted, not fully committed to the task at hand.  Perhaps they were glancing at their computer or phone, perhaps they were interrupting constantly, perhaps they chimed in with conversation that was completely off topic.  How did that impact you and what you were trying to accomplish? How did that impact the relationship you have with them? How did that impact your commitment level to them?

In this fast-paced world it is easier than ever to get distracted during conversations. Most leaders don’t fully understand how big an issue distractions are. Most leaders don’t realize that when you are 100% in the moment and focused on the person you are with it is one of the biggest compliments you can pay that person. The residual effects of paying that kind of attention to someone are enormous. Five minutes of giving someone your undivided attention reaps huge benefits in their connection and commitment to you and what you are trying to achieve.

In their New York Times Bestseller, “The Power of Full Engagement,” Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz state that, “To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.”

Leaders show engagement by:

  • Body language – leaning in, removing barriers between them and other person, nodding, maintaining eye contact
  • Removing distractions – turning off ringer on phone, shutting down computer monitor, requesting to be not interrupted
  • Verbal cues – paraphrasing to check for understanding, asking powerful questions

Being actively engaged doesn’t always mean putting aside what you are doing to give someone else your attention. Perhaps you don’t have time right now. Being engaged means you are up front with them about that and perhaps request an alternative time to speak with them so that you can offer them your full attention.

Being actively engaged does mean you portray that your purpose in the moment is to give high importance to the conversation that is happening and the person that is in front of you right now.

Leaders Have More Impact When They Have Purposeful Conversations

Think about the number of conversations you have in a day. Now consider, how many of them were purposeful? Did you consider your intention going into the conversation? Did you consider what you wanted out of the conversation and ensure you got there? Did you walk away from any conversation wondering what the point of it was?

Purposeful conversation goes beyond the exchange of information and ideas. It connects people with the reason behind your conversation. What’s the why? Why are you having the conversation? What’s the intention and the outcome you are looking for?

Think about the last time someone came up to you or sent you an email with the statement, “We need to talk.” You likely jumped to all sorts of conclusions around the topic they wanted to discuss. You may have assumed it was not going to be a positive conversation. You were already bracing yourself and going into defense mode.

Now consider if that person had been more purposeful about their communication. It might have gone something like this, “I’m looking for 15 minutes of your time to discuss the changes to delivery schedule and the impact that might have on production. I have some ideas to lessen the pain for our employees.” What’s your reaction now? How are you going to approach that conversation?

Being more purposeful in your communication opens up dialogue, invites more active participation from others and breaks down the barriers that you might not even know exist. In essence, you get more accomplished in less time with less misunderstandings.

What would be possible for you if you could hone your conversation skills? What would be possible if you had more purposeful conversations with your team? What would be possible if you had a higher level of connection and influence? What would the impact be if you could instantly increase your value to your organization, to your team, by 50%?

Are you interested in learning how we incorporate RQ Relationship Intelligence into our leadership development coaching programs? Set up a call or reach out to us via email at request@epiphanycoaches.com.