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Creating Successful Leaders

How many times has a project or a meeting broken down because of either A) a lack of communication or B) a miscommunication? Unfortunately, this is commonplace and can completely derail conversations, relationships, or projects. What’s more, in the era of work from home, effective communication is getting even trickier. It can be difficult to read body language over Zoom and it’s no longer possible to pop into someone’s office to ask a quick question (thus, making communication that much harder).

How can we strive to improve communication this year? Here are 3 ideas:

1. Practice active listening

There’s a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is physiological and can be passive—we can hear sounds or sentences without bothering to interpret them. Listening, however, is active. It involves hearing and interpreting what you hear. Practice active listening by paying attention and absorbing what others say without formulating a response. Too often we’re so busy thinking about what we want to say, that we do not truly pay attention to the speaker.

2. Ask good questions

Even if you think you understand what’s been said, it’s a good idea to ask clarifying questions. Make sure you understand the who/what/where/how of something, before moving on to the next subject. You might try using the “I think I heard” approach. This approach involves repeating back what you think you heard, and asking if that is correct. For example:

“Just to clarify, it sounds like we are going to be prioritizing XYZ this quarter, is that correct?”

For more on asking good questions, please see this blog post all about clarity.

3. Keep meetings to a minimum

You may already suspect this, but it is NOT necessarily a good thing to have more meetings. People are suffering from meeting burnout (especially lately, with so many video chats). What’s more, according to Harvard Business Review, “meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, to the point where executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s.”

That’s outrageous, and it’s completely unnecessary. Instead of focusing on meeting frequency, focus on meeting quality. Create specific meeting goals, make sure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities, and set a time limit for the meeting. If the meeting involves gathering feedback from your team, try challenging everyone to summarize their thoughts in a minute or two. Concision is key!

Lastly, ask yourself if a meeting is actually necessary. What needs to be accomplished? Can it be achieved through a few quick emails? If so, consider skipping the meeting.

Good communication is often hard to come by. Practice good listening, keep an honest and open line of communication, and work to avoid meeting burnout. Effective communication can be truly transformative for a workplace.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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