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Making Communication Simple. (#76)

The Confident Leader

The soccer coach yelled, “play simple!” as he saw his players trying to muscle the ball forward in the face of aggressive opponents. Their play wasn’t simple. His communication wasn’t effective. Let’s explore. 

When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.
— Steven Covey (author)

This Week’s Edition

Why do we make leadership harder than it needs to be? Is there a simple approach to communication? 

Clarify Your Thinking

In soccer, the objective is to move the ball down field and score. In pursuit of this, a player can end up turned toward their own goal, shielding the ball from an oncoming opponent who is attempting to dispossess them of the ball.  

In this situation, the player’s instinct is to attempt to turn themselves (and the ball) around thereby facing the right direction – down field toward the opponent’s goal.  This is hard to do. It takes considerable effort, skill, and time. All the while, the other team quickly closes in. To make matters worse, it has a low probability of success.

There is a simple solution, if not a bit counterintuitive – pass the ball back to a teammate and run-down field. Your opponent now has a choice: follow you or follow the ball. Typically, they’ll follow the ball allowing your team mate to sidestep them and pass the ball to you, in stride as you run downfield. Goooooooal! Simple!

Leaders fall into the same trap – making things harder than they have to be. Take the soccer coach. He yelled, “play simple!” His players didn’t respond. Why? Because his communication was complex. His players were thinking, “what does that even mean?” 

He was shouting what to do. While it seems clear to him, his team is confused. They needed to know how to do it – “Pass back to Riley. Run down field. Receive the pass.” 

As a seasoned leader, you might have found yourself in the same place as the coach, merely yelling, “play simple.”

  • I need you to increase your sales.

  • We’ve got our goals. I need you to meet them.

  • That client is upset. Take care of it.

  • The two of you just need to figure it out.

While these directives may seem clear as to what needs to be done, it may leave your team wondering how to make it happen. 

Old Thinking: How come they aren’t doing what they need to do. I’ve been clear. It seems like common sense.

New Thinking: I might need to improve my communication game. What can I do to communicate more clearly?

Thoughts Lead to Actions

87% of employees think their leader communicates ineffectively. The main challenges to communicating effectively are:

  • Inconsistency

  • Relying on technology too much to disseminate their message

  • Assuming your audience understands you

  • Not listening

  • Assuming others are excellent communicators

If this is accurate, then the earnest leader may be asking themselves, “what can I do to improve my communication?”  Start with these simple steps:

Step 1: Over this coming week, identify specific situations where you may find yourself asking, “Are they getting this?” or “I think I’m being clear, why is nothing happening?” Make note of these opportunities to improve. 

Step 2: Critique your current communication. Are you merely sharing what needs to be done? (Note: resist the urge to think, “They should know how to do this by now.”)

Step 3: Add two essential things to your communication:

  • Share your expertise on how to do the thing OR ask them how they are going to do it (to test for competency and alignment).

  • Narrate the business why behind the what to create context for the overall effort.

During halftime the coach explained the how and the why to his intelligent varsity soccer girls. They went on to dominate the game 4 to 2 after being down by 2 at half.  Effective communication! 


Boost Your Performance

If the statistics are accurate, we leaders have a long way to go in the area of communication. Chances are that you are a good communicator, otherwise you would not be in your current position. Moving from good to great will increase your leadership momentum. Play simple. Learn more in this week’s video.

What’s Your Opinion?

What is one area of your communication you need to improve? Share it with me at:

Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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