”Communication is vital, but the great irony is that human beings have a surprisingly difficult time when it comes to knowing what exactly they are communicating.” -Heidi Halvorson
As a manager, have you felt the burden of working hard to craft a message that is misinterpreted by your team?
Halvorson set out to write a book that would answer her husband’s question about why he, as senior manager, skilled at communication, found himself re-explaining and reframing his message time and again. He would read a book that would give him the answer. Halvorson’s book is one of the most significant books on the topic that has been written in the last decades, and I predict it will be a text for the subject for a long time.
Based on extensive research, here are some of the most important insights:
- You are surprisingly hard to understand. Many of us see ourselves as clear as the conductor on the train proclaiming “All aboard!” Yet that his hardly the case. We have different family backgrounds, ethnic points of view, personality types, and different experiences that have made us unfold very differently from each other. You think you made your point time and again, but those who heard it have different ears than you.
- People are cognitive misers. This simply means that we see people from the lens of our own mental formation and experience. I used to believe that I can “nail someone” when I walked in the room and visited with them a moment, but many of us who began thinking that learned that we eliminated important allies and in many cases were just wrong.
- Getting people to take a second look is difficult but possible. It took a long time for me to like limburger cheese. At first it just tasted and smelled bad, but now it’s one of my favorite cheeses. We are a bit like that. It takes persistence to keep connecting with people over an over again until they develop a “taste” for you.
- People want you to be like them—and they’re shocked when you’re not. Destroy at your own risk their belief that you think differently from them. People project onto you the image of themselves.
- If you want to change people’s impressions of you, you have to exaggerate the behaviors you’re working to project. If you’re a team leader than has rolled over your team by both ignoring them and micromanaging them while being totally insensitive to their feelings and thwarting their initiatives, they won’t even see your changes unless you change radically over time.
There are many other reasons that people don’t get you that Halvorson doesn’t explore, and they would be exploring. As a leader with well above average intelligence who is successful at seeing the future, t’s not surprising that many people in the organization simply can’t grasp what you’re telling them. Ironically in today’s world, their inability to understand you is still your problem—you have to teach them how to understand.
There is also the factor of competition. Many who express their inability to understand what you’re telling you are trying to score points with someone else. It’s not in their interest to understand you. The tools of triangulation as still widely used.
These are factors in communication that will be necessarily depend on communicating more effectively. They fall more into the realm of internal organizational politics, which is another area of communication.
Consider an Executive Coach to Help You Connect to your Organization
As a leader, you have a challenging journey to accomplishing your team’s goals. Here are some factors you might consider:
- You need to make some measurable changes quickly. Your team’s success is on the line, and perhaps your career. With the right coach, you’ll make changes in months—not years.
- You need behavioral assessments—science on your side. We use MBTI Step II (RT), the Delta 360, the Spectrum Leadership model, and many assessments that will pinpoint your course of action.
- You need realtime feedback from an executive coach to guide you through the process. Your ability to lead the team calls for an effective, experienced coach who can help you apply what you’ve learned and give you feedback on your increasingly effective leadership. There will be challenges in the beginning, and a coach can be that voice that helps you succeed.