I was doing some self reflection the other day and was struck by this notion that where I am in my career and in my life, goes way back, I can trace it back to my childhood. I was a child of the 70’s and the 80’s and watched far too much television. What I recall from that is that I was often frustrated by these shows that I watched. There was all kinds of discord and disharmony and it all came back to communication. Person A was not clear in their communication to person B. It caused that person to behave in a certain way, which was less than desirable. Or person A chose not to communicate, not to say something, it led person B to behave in a certain way. While that’s good television and it’s keeps you coming back, it’s not good for our lives and companies that were a part of.

Good communication can be incredibly powerful to organizations and individuals alike.

The work that comes out of the Gallup organization with focusing on workplace engagement shows us the importance of creating clear expectations for people. We all want to know clearly, what’s expected of us and where we have room to bring our strengths to bear. We can recognize companies like Cognize, out of the UK, has shown us how costly miscommunication can be. It causes rework, duplication of efforts or missed opportunities that exist in the workplace day after day. Good, powerful, strong, clear communication can help to avoid that and to minimize that. While that can be overwhelming, because communication can be so broad to define and can feel really overwhelming. What we focus on are the conversations that each one of us has day in and day out. They’re the work of every single one of us in an organization, the workhorse of an organization like yours and like mine. They get things done. Conversations determine what’s going to happen or not going to happen based on what you’re talking about, who you’re talking with, and who shows up to the conversation. Which then leads us to ask, as individuals…

How do I do it, how do I communicate more effectively?

Here are a handful of things that I encourage you to try to put into practice for yourself over the course of the coming days and weeks. See what impact they have on your communication and your conversations. The first one is to be fully present from conversation to conversation. Be here, prepared to be nowhere else. Show up, get rid of your smartphone, put it out of arm’s length. Close your e-mail so that you don’t hear the ping of a new e-mail showing up in your inbox. Really be present with this person in front of you so that you can focus on the conversation and achieve the outcomes that both you and they desire. The other thing I’d encourage you to put into practice is some curiosity. I know a lot of people are consider themselves to be very clear and straight shooters, they tell it like it is. Maybe you’ve said that before. You’ve heard others say that which I think is great.

Being able to name things without judgment is critical for all of us.

What I would ask you to consider for yourself is, why do you believe what you believe you know? How did you come to that understanding? Is there some data that you might be missing? Is there new data for you to consider that might in fact cause you to shift your view of a certain situation? Or perspective to expand your view of the information in front of you. Getting curious and interrogating your own reality, your own view of the world, is essential and you do that in in the course of a conversation by being curious. One more thing I’d encourage you to put into practice is paying attention to how you leave people feeling after your conversations are over. Every single one of us has, within our power, the ability to lead people with an afterglow after we’re done talking with them. The unfortunate truth is that we can also leave an after taste, or even aftermath. I invite you to take responsibility for the emotional wake that you leave behind. You own it and pay attention to it.

While communication is broad and it can be overwhelming, it doesn’t need to be

I invite you to pay attention to the conversations you’re having with those around you. The people that are most important to you, colleagues, managers, direct reports, people at home, people that you love and that are valuable to you.

All of this can be achieved one conversation at a time. One conversation at a time, starting with the next one that’s in front of you.

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