Leadership Communication – Do you know your style?


Leadership Communication

What’s your communication style?

As leaders, we all have different leadership communication styles. Some of us are extroverts and love to talk with people. We get our energy from being around other people. Others are introverts and aren’t as comfortable conversing, needing ‘downtime’ to recharge. Some people are a combination of both.  

There are also those who ‘broadcast’ and their communication is primarily one-way: them to everyone else. Ideally, a two-way style of communication is more satisfying where we are truly listening and responding to what others are saying. We are engaged with each other. Some people just don’t like to talk. They prefer to keep their thoughts and ideas ‘close to their vest.’ They can be deep thinkers. Some people process their thoughts by ‘talking out loud.’ What leadership communication style do you most identify with? 

This is a story about a Vice President of Technology Services, a client who was often brought in as a ‘fixer’ to solve the complicated needs of his company’s clients. Joe* loved being in this position and got an adrenaline rush from being ‘the guy’ with the answers. He literally felt it in his body. Plus, he loved to talk. I mean REALLY. LOVED. TO. TALK.

And then, this method no longer worked as successfully as it used to. Joe’s solutions weren’t always on point. He found himself going down rabbit holes on other topics, and instead of helping build rapport, he was losing his audience. That’s when his boss brought me in as an executive coach to help.

Over the course of our coaching engagement, Joe realized he needed to shift from talking mode to listening mode. It made a huge difference in how he approaches client meetings. He’s shifted from ‘talking to explain’ to ‘asking questions and listening to understand.’ Plus, he’s noticed his shift in energy during the meetings, and how to stay ‘on topic.’

What we accomplished through coaching

1. Active listening means observing what’s being said, as well as what’s NOT being said.

A successful salesperson who actively listens is someone who listens not just to the words, but to the tone, the inflection, the body language and to what’s not being said. We can listen with our entire bodies, not just our ears. My client learned to watch what was happening with the other people in the room by reading the ‘whole person’ and their body language; not just the words being spoken.

2. Listening means allowing others to take center stage.

Joe likes to be the center of attention. He feeds on it. And it has been hard to let this go. When you are actively listening, you are taking a step back to really listen. That means giving up your ego to hear the other person. It’s okay. Joe learned his words carry more weight when he uses them more judiciously, and not just talk to be talking.

3. Listening means engaging with others.

Ask questions. And then listen to the answers. Don’t go into the conversation just to be the expert. Go into the conversation to hear the other person’s concerns, perspective or opinion. Be curious. Joe found that by asking questions first, instead of coming in to ‘fix’ the clients’ problems, his solutions are better received. He’s understanding their true needs, not just what he thinks they need.

Coaching helped Joe become aware of the emotions and physical feelings he experienced as a ‘fixer.’ Through coaching, he developed strategies for controlling the adrenaline rush, and he’s now a better listener. He asks more questions to truly understand customer needs – which in turn, is improving client relationships. Joe can offer more effective solutions to client issues.

Recognizing our communication style, especially for those in leadership positions, can be critical to success. Only when we’re aware of our style and how it impacts our audience, can we make adjustments to become more effective.

* The name of this client has been changed to keep his identity confidential.

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