Effective Communication - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP
The everchanging COVID situation unfolding around the nation continues to fuel a media frenzy and the constant communication can be overwhelming. As leaders it’s important our communication, both spoken and written, doesn’t add to people’s anxiety or uncertainty. It’s about striking the right tone, being honest and clear, and being a stabilizing, reassuring influence on the organisation.
When I plan what I’m going to say, I start by listening. Take the time to ask questions, be curious and approach the conversation with an open mind. It can also help to practise standing in the other person’s shoes to see an issue from their perspective.
Misunderstandings can create a lot of extra work and frustration. I learnt from our wonderful clinical team the importance of regularly checking my understanding. “Just checking, you’re saying that…” not only helps us get on the same page, it tells the other person you're engaged and interested in exploring the topic with them. Another tool helpful in exploring a topic, and something we practice in our own meetings, is “Yes and…”. “Yes, that’s a really interesting point, and what about we build on that and also consider…” creates a positive cycle of ideas. “Yes, but…” pushes another’s idea away in favour of your own.
Being vulnerable and being ok with silence are both really important to me. We live in a very noisy world, where there’s an expectation we should have all the answers. Admitting to mistakes, seeking support, asking for help, apologizing, and acknowledging we don’t have all the answers are often seen as weaknesses. Not so. They are signs a leader is aware they are part of a team effort, where others’ contributions are valued – a leader can’t do it by themselves. As Brené Brown says “Vulnerability is not weakness; it's our greatest measure of courage.” Being ok with silence also takes courage. To leave space, rather than jumping in to fill it, allows room for reflection, which can lead to new, creative ideas, rather than simply recycling the old. Silence can feel uncomfortable, but respecting those natural pauses allows time to think and feel, and in groups can give opportunity for the quieter, more thoughtful introverted members to have their say.
Communicating with each other is the most natural thing in the world. We are born wanting to do it. And we can keep learning to do it more effectively. They are skills we can all constantly improve, and they are skills that underpin the work we do at AccessEAP.
Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP