Everything we say or do communicates something to somebody somewhere. This time-proven axiom is all the more powerful in the midst of an environment shaped by the speed, ubiquity, and mobility of communications technology. Communication now is fast, it’s everywhere, and it’s on the move.
To survive and thrive in this environment, we encourage leaders to develop a mindset that places communication at the center of all they do.
The Truths and Priciples of Communication-Based Leadership set a foundation to build on, but here are six questions leaders can start asking right away to begin communicating intentionally and deliberately, make best use of our communication capacity, strengthen key relationships, and develop the trust necessary to achieve enduring leadership success.
The questions are: What? Who? Why? How? Where? and When?
They may seem obvious, but often the most obvious things are the easiest to overlook.
What will I communicate about?
Have you ever been in the midst of a heated debate with someone and realized you were talking about two entirely different things? Understanding the issue we are communicating about is as important as knowing who we are are communicating with. Are we addressing an enduring topic? Reacting to an event imposed on us or our organization? Or preparing to engage regarding an action we or our organization will initiate?
Who will I communicate with?
While “Know your audience” is a common mantra, we encourage communication-based leaders to know their publics. To effectively communicate with people, it is essential to understand them, to find common ground or learn how and why they differ. What are their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about the issue at hand? What are their goals, priorities, and concerns? Do they mesh with ours? Do they clash? Will we be able to build a beneficial relationship with them? Or are we in competition with them to inform the awareness and perception of others?
Why will I communicate?
What are our goals and desired outcomes? Are we trying to shift a public’s state of awareness from latent to active? From aware to active? From active back to aware? Are we trying to neutralize unfavorable perceptions? Crystalize unformed perceptions? Preserve favorable perceptions? Are we trying to shift or build upon a given public’s beliefs, opinions, attitudes or behaviors?
How will I communicate?
This question may seem much the same as “Where will I communicate?”, but has more to do with the medium we choose than the location. Are we primarily delivering information? Perhaps a press release or email is the best way. Or do we need a high degree of immediate interaction and feedback? Will Slack do the trick? What about engaging by phone or video?
Communication-Based Leadership is a foundation upon which any leadership style can be built and strengthened. Whether we are servant leaders, transformational leaders, or even toxic leaders, learning to ask (and answer!) each of these questions by reflex will help us improve by developing a CBL mindset both as a leader and throughout our teams or organizations.
Where will I communicate?
While advances in communications technology enable us to send messages to the entire world at the speed of Send, one-to-one and face-to-face interaction remain the richest forms of engagement and make best use of our limited communication capacity. Choosing the right location can make all the difference. Do we need to talk with an individual? Maybe a private lunch is the right place. Do we need to talk with a group? When will the greatest number of that group be available to us — and do we have a place where they will all fit comfortably?
When will I communicate?
Modern communications technology is instant. This can fool us into thinking speed is more important than timeliness. Yet the timing of communication can make or break a relationship. Will we initiate communication on an issue? Or wait for someone to ask about it? Do we need to set aside some time to discuss the issue free of distractions?
To learn more about Communication-Based Leadership and how it can help improve leadership outcomes, continue to follow us here at the Hard NoCs blog or contact us directly at North of Center. We are ready to help you become the kind of leader you would want to follow.
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Cliff holds a PhD in organization and management with a specialization in leadership. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, he completed operational deployments to Fallujah, Iraq and Kandahar and Helmand, Afghanistan. He has led multi-national and inter-agency teams including approximately one year on loan from the Corps as Director of Policy, Planning, and Outreach for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs. He also directly advised the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on public and media engagement regarding national security matters for two years as Special Assistant for Public Communication. Today he puts that experience to work helping people become the kind of leaders they would want to follow.