You have to be honest yet respectful, so what do you say? And how do you say it? Or just leave it alone and say nothing? In a previous article, guest Tom Crawford stressed that communication is the essential ingredient for organizational success. As former Chairman and CEO in three major companies and current member and principle Crawford Corporate Coaching, his record of leadership success is almost unparalleled in terms of better communication for team productivity. When he shares his experience, wise leaders bend an ear to listen and learn.
The Elmer’s Glue of organizational development
Earlier, Tom highlighted communications (not Elmer’s) as being the critical glue that aligns senior leaders and all staff people in the organizational culture with mission, vision, values, and strategies.
“Clear communication strengthens a team’s bond and allows them to collaborate better, bringing the best ideas and efforts into focus toward accomplishing goals.” [Tweet This]
Then, he spoke about clarity—the critical next step in the communication bond.
Clarify to align expectations and goals
It takes work to gain clarity by communicating and over-communicating to get alignment. In my 30 years of work in the art and science of natural behavioral assessment, it’s a distinct characteristic that clarity doesn’t come naturally for many leaders not to mention the variety of behavioral profile types on your team that hear and process information differently.
In my book, Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability, I list five reasons why we don’t clarify. The barriers are so strong that we all must be intentional and push ourselves, or in the words of my military staff college training, “Fight for Clarity.”
The one revolutionary habit
In this article, Tom shares another gold nugget that also connects us back to communications. But this time, the bottom line is more about listening. Here is the way Tom expressed it:
Knowledge is powerful.
Knowledge shared is more powerful.
Knowledge from the people in the company who touch it every day is the most powerful of all. [Tweet This]
Wow! Tom is saying that senior leaders need to be listening to the ideas and insights from people at the lower levels. On the surface that seems logical and practical, and it’s so obvious and simple that you would think it’s a “no brainer.” But the higher you go in the organization, the harder it is to “lean down” and listen (especially for specific LBDNA Profile Types). It is a consistent consulting point in the work that I do with organizations.
Strategic listening is not a natural, common practice among busy senior leaders because it requires time and patience and a positive belief in the power and capacity of others. And like all the other great leadership attributes, it also requires the rare leadership combination of confidence and humility that few of us naturally have.
Choose to learn new behaviors
Much of the problem is that we’re fighting nature, and our natural tilt is either results-oriented or relationship-oriented.
- For Results-oriented leaders, strategic listening is typically a big challenge. It is contrary to their strengths and emphasizes their struggles.
- Strengths – Quick to grasp big picture; initiating, want to move quickly to get results
- Struggles – Can be over-confident in their own opinions and reject others ideas; not naturally good listeners, impatient
- For Relationship-oriented leaders, strategic listening is also a challenge but for different reasons.
- Strengths – Optimistic, like new ideas; Trusting and supportive of others
- Struggles – Too optimistic and take on too much, try to do everything at once; too trusting, strong need for approval, may be taken advantage of by others
Know yourself and get going
This month’s nugget is that great leaders know and proactively get input from their people.
We’ve discussed some common reasons why this is not easy, but you should reflect objectively on your own personal situation. The bottom line is that leaders need a plan to understand yourself and your natural strengths and struggles, and we use the Leadership Behavior DNA behavioral assessment in our training and consulting for this purpose.
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 Tom Crawford began as an insurance clerk and worked his way up to the executive suite and boardroom. He has served as Chairman and CEO of three major insurance companies. He now serves on several boards and heads Crawford Corporate Coaching, where he helps executive teams create clarity and systems for greater success.