If we observe the world around us, we can see that proper communication is not only a habit of great leaders, but it’s a behavior of life itself. If we compare the human body to that of an organization, our cells being the individuals, we quickly see how important the practice of effective communication is to a thriving existence.
Under the radar of our awareness, our cells are in non-stop communication with one another to ensure appropriate function of our bodies. When our pancreas detects that we’ve just eaten, it produces insulin, which prompts cells to absorb blood sugar and create a hormone that signals the liver to release its stored sugar supply. This internal conversation ensures the cells in our brains and bodies have regular doses of blood sugar. You can imagine the detrimental effects if there’s a breakdown in any message transmissions. Cancer can be an unfortunate side effect of any cells’ disruption in communication. Thwarted or lack of communication in our organizations can act like a metaphorical tumor.
The cells in our body are intimate with each other. Effective leaders behave comparably; they create a real, emotional, and personal connection with their followers, team members, or employees. Genuine communication can be one of the most important tools for generating a positive, empowering environment and gaining the faith of supporters, and the best way to do this is by getting out and engaging with your people.
Trust is built through shared experiences over time. Your liver doesn’t question the signals of the pancreas; it just acts on the consistent information given. There’s absolute trust built between the cells in our body, and as managers, our job is to work towards building a complete trust of our leadership. Great leaders build trust by having frequent and open communication with the members of their organization.
As with our cells, interpersonal communication is a two-way function. We can often learn more by being open to different ideas and opinions rather than trying to get alignment on our own thoughts. Influential leaders recognize that the best lessons and breakthroughs come from conversations, not from a lecture, and from an environment where open communication and ideas are welcomed to flourish.
As humans, we broadcast a lot more information than merely our words. According to Albert Mehrabian**, only 7% of our communication is the spoken word, the rest is through body language and tone of voice. Astute leaders learn to become keenly aware of reading between the lines and understanding what isn’t being said just as much as the words their hearing.
Start to think of any lack of communication in your organization as a potential cancer, and address it immediately. As a leader, your behavior is a model that your team members and employees will emulate. Create a culture of communication through your actions. Be the visible symbol, and the verbal example, of how you would like your people to communicate.
In part 2 we’ll discuss the importance of an effective leader’s integrity, which is huge for building trust. As you’ve probably heard before, a person is only as good as their word. Stay tuned!