Monday, September 20, 2010

Meaningful Communication Prevents Fear

NEURO-TIP: Successful communication has the ability to meld minds through the experience of neural coupling, which is experienced when the listener’s brain mirrors the activity of the speaker’ brain.*

As you step up into higher levels of leadership, the challenges undoubtedly multiply. One of the most significant challenges will be managing the increase in the number of interactions and new relationships that come with leading a larger team of say 100 to even 1,000.

Staying connected and sustaining relationships while driving for results across a growing employee base is a hurdle, but it must be jumped to successfully hit the ground running as an influential leader in any company. Taking the time for personal interactions with employees is how good leaders of the past became great leaders in history.

It is a leader’s thoughtful interactions with their team that will create an environment balanced with both personal communication and results driven communication; this is ultimately at the heart of being a “humanizing leader.”

It’s amazing how often I find leaders trapped into thinking the higher they go up the corporate ladder, the tougher they need to be. Ironically, the opposite is actually true.

As leadership titles get bigger – from director to VP to EVP to CEO – they increase in the weight they carry, which is also known as positional power (discussed further in this older post). As a result of this growth, the members of the leader’s team tend to refrain from healthy push back and from challenging his/her authority. To offset these sorts of problems associated with positional power, leaders need to thoughtfully connect with their employees at a more personal level and encourage open and honest conversation.

These are a few identifiers that may help you evaluate if your employees fear your positional power:
  • Perpetual deference to your authority
  • Fear of speaking up
  • Avoiding talking about challenges and difficult issues – fear of disappointing the boss

Ask Yourself where You Stand

How can you build an environment where people feel safe to speak up, to challenge issues together, and to put difficult conversations on the table? How can you create an environment that thrives on the humanity?

Practices for yourself:
  • Remember that relationships are the building blocks for success
  • Catch yourself criticizing people
  • Make it a habit to find what can be appreciated in every person

    Practices with your staff:
    • Point out things people are doing well
    • Cultivate an environment that’s safe for people to speak honestly and openly with one another
    • Be specific about what you’re giving others feedback on
    • Be timely with your feedback, and sensitive to its impact
    • Give coaching in private

    *Biological Sciences - Neuroscience - Social Sciences - Psychological and Cognitive Sciences:
    · Greg J. Stephens,
    · Lauren J. Silbert,
    · and Uri Hasson
    Speaker–listener neural coupling underlies successful communication PNAS 2010 107 (32) 14425-14430; published ahead of print July 26, 2010, doi:10.1073/pnas.1008662107

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