Communication

In this masterclass you will find a host of absolutely essential techniques that you must master in order to be a great leader. Work though the videos in turn, carrying out all the actions. Communication is a work in progress as we are always learning. Keep working on it though and your daily communication will become easier and easier.

Communication

Skilful communication is the cornerstone of inspirational leadership. Without exceptional communication you can’t share your vision in a way that creates excitement, you can’t get people to willingly do what you need them to do and you can’t help them excel.

By the end of this masterclass you will understand the fundamental principles behind exceptional communication, you will be able to speak to anyone about anything and get a positive result, and you will feel much more in control of the world around you. With skilful communication you can make things happen in the way they need to happen in order to get your business or your relationship where you want it to be.

Communication demands a skill set just as engineering does, or marketing, or accounting but we rarely commit the time required to get really good at it. When we become skilled at communicating life and work become so much easier.

In this first video we’re going to explore why communication is so vital in leadership, what it is about communication that gets us in such a muddle, how it can all go so wrong so quickly and why this happens. We’ll then go on, in subsequent videos to discuss the separate areas of great communication and the techniques involved.

So, communication, why aren’t we great at it? We practise it every single day, with many different people. If the idea of 10,000 hours of practise making us expert in something was true we’d all be perfect at communicating right?

Wrong.

But why is it wrong?

It’s wrong because although we are practising, we’re not necessarily practising excellent communication, we’re just practising our habitual communication, and that might be far from perfect. Practise doesn’t mean perfect if what we’re practising is bad, or flawed in some way. It just means we get really good at doing something badly. So if we’re always sulky when we’re given feedback, we get really good at sulking, which isn’t a perfect response to being given feedback.

So, how do we get good at communicating then? Well we need to go right back to basics, something that despite all our hours communicating with hundreds of different people we are very unlikely ever to have done before. So here we go…

What I want you to consider for a moment now is what are some basic facts about people? Some things that are universally, or generally true, about people? So, for example, I would say that people like to be shown respect, they like it when they are smiled at. Those are two very basic facts about people in general. Pause the video and have a think about some more basic facts. Note them down in your workbook.

So let’s go over some basic facts then. People, as I said, like to feel that they’re respected, they like to be smiled at, it shows warmth and makes people feel liked. They like to be listened to, to have questions asked of them, to be made to feel important and valued. Most people like to feel their work has some value, that they are part of a team, part of something bigger. Most people like to feel included socially. Many people want to be challenged at work, perhaps not all the time but as part of a fulfilling role. Most people want time off, away from work, we all need time off from work to refresh, to re-energise. Most people need a bit of help with their motivation from time to time. We lack confidence in some way, and need praise and encouragement, we generally enjoy being praised, even if it feels a little bit uncomfortable at the time. Most people like to feel they are progressing through life. People respond well to kindness, to human contact and warmth. And people really like it when we use their name. It makes them feel recognised, important and worthwhile.

Communication is a factor in all of that. You can’t make someone feel important without communicating with them. If you think bowing before someone might make them feel important you are perhaps right, but you’re still communicating with them. If you think ‘not talking to someone’ to prove a point about how upset you are with them isn’t communicating, I’d ask you to think again, because what that is doing is sending a very clear message, it’s just not verbal. So we are communicating much of the time, even when we think we are not.

So why is great communication important? Communication is important because it's how we deal with our fellow human beings, who are complex emotional beings. Communication is the linchpin in any organisation. Get communication right and you have a team that works together to create magic, you have a great culture that people want to belong to and believe in and you reduce many of the costs associated with bad communication such as work being done wrongly, a higher attrition rate and is healthy and people working towards disparate goals. Communication training, therefore, should be a major priority within your business, not just for the leadership team but for every single member of your organisation.

We might think our organisation is great at communication but many things can get in the way of our being good at it on a daily basis. It’s not just important on big occasions or when communicating a strategically important vision, it’s important every single day with every single transaction between humans, every email, every phone call, every meeting, every conversation, every look, every glance. But things get in the way, life gets in the way. How can we be thinking about what our face looks like when we are struggling under our workload that's far too high or how can we be strategically planning every single conversation we have with every single team member. Realistically we can't ,but what we can do is work on creating habits of great communication so that these things, this excellent communication, starts to happen without us being aware of it, it becomes part of our unconscious way of being.

We struggle to communicate effectively sometimes because we’re wrapped up in our own agenda or how we feel and we fail to anticipate how the other person will react to what we are communicating to them. Really, most people could anticipate how someone will react to what they say but we just don’t bother to take the time to think. We think we’re too busy. And we are focused on our side of the communication. Instead of thinking of what outcome we want from our communication with this other person we focus on delivering the message the we want to deliver. And this means that far too often we awaken the other person’s chimp brain. Our. Chimp brain is the very old part of our brain that’s concerned with fight or flight, with survival. Only, because we really don’t have to deal with actual survival very much any more it has developed to view survival to include social survival. So anything that affects our self esteem or our social standing gets a reaction from our chimp and that reaction is generally defensive or cross.

So when we focus on delivering the message the we want to deliver rather than the outcome we want, we wake the chimp up and end up having to deal with a cross defensive person rather than someone who is really listening to what we’re saying and happy to have a rational discussion about the best way forward.. That message might be, “I’m annoyed with you because you did this wrongly.” Our chimp brain, senses a threat to our self esteem and is reacting emotionally and it’s cross and it wants to express that.

So what we should be doing is thinking rationally, employing the frontal cortex, to decide what really is the message I want to convey? The message I want to convey is ‘please do it this way in future’. Is telling someone they’re wrong in a cross way going to result in it being done how you want it next time, probably not, so why not take a moment, calm the chimp down, or even better bypass it altogether by appealing to and engaging with their rational mind by using your rational mind. Decide on the outcome you want and communicate in a way that will deliver that outcome, not convey the anger you feel, and cause the other person’s chimp to wake up and get all defensive. When we’re defensive we don’t hear anything properly. It’s pointless trying to communicate rationally with a defensive person about an emotive subject. The first thing you need to do is get their chimp calm, back in its box, so you can deal with their rational brain.

So, as I say about 100 times a week, you are more in control than you think you are. You can control the outcome of a conversation far more often than you think you can. you are able to predict and control those reactions by just doing a little think before you speak.

We struggle to understand others because we don’t take the time to understand ourselves. If we start to observe ourselves and be honest about ourselves then we become a lot more aware of the kind of things that upset us or drive us mad or make us feel happy and motivated and want to work hard. What doesn’t motivate us, in general, is being criticised. Dale Carnegie’s first principle is ‘Don’t criticise, condemn or complain.’ His very first principle in ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. When you understand that, you need to think, ‘if I’m not motivated by criticism, my team probably aren’t either.’ So then you can move on to the next step which is stopping criticising, getting the results you need/want by another method. This is ‘beginning with the end in mind, one of the 7 habits of highly effective people and the whole philosophy behind the practise of thinking of the outcome that you want from the communication before you open your mouth, or raise your eyebrows, or tut, or sigh, or shake your head.

Am I making communication sound like an enormous amount of hard work. Probably, but it’s not really, it just needs you to alter a few habits here and there. And you can do this with the techniques we’re going to talk about in subsequent videos.

As well as communication being difficult sometimes because we don’t understand ourselves fully and therefore don’t understand others, we also sabotage our communication often by being tired, and over sensitive, or lazy and lacking effort. By this I mean that when we’re tired, our brain sees more communications from others as more threatening. So being tired is a real pain if we want to have chimp free, rational communication, because we’re fighting the physiological effects of tiredness in our brain. We all recognise that we can be grumpier when we’re tired so one of the best techniques for being better at communication is getting decent sleep. If we are sacrificing sleep, for whatever reason, we are likely to be sub optimal communicators.

I also mentioned laziness or lack of effort in communication as being a factor about why communication is difficult. Think of this scenario. You’re under pressure at work, so you quickly delegate a task, you don’t take the time to communicate what needs doing, how you have done it in the past and how you need it doing, when you need it done by and how it needs presenting. You think ‘they should just know, they’ve been here long enough.’ Then the task gets completed but it’s not how it needed to be. You blame the other person for not doing it correctly when really the fault lies with you for poor communication lacking effort right at the start.

So, we’ve spoken about how vital communication is for leadership, and life really, we’ve explored why it can go wrong, from both our point of view and (most importantly) from the point of view from the other person, and we’ve spoken a bit about our chimp brain. The next videos will all explore in more depth about how to communicate in an inspirational way, how to get the most from the people around you through communication and how you can say anything you want to someone and have them react in a positive manner.

Before I go on to speak specifically about the other techniques explored in this masterclass what I’d like you to do is, with your already-growing awareness of the kinds of things you do in life that might not be helping with your communication, write down 3 areas that you feel you need to work on. Make them specific so that you have a chance at succeeding. Don’t just write, ‘smile more’, write ‘smile when I enter a room’, or ‘smile when someone interrupts me at my desk’. The more specific you are the better chance you have at improving what you do as the brain has something to trigger the thought process associated with the new habit. Pause the video and write down your 3 areas now.

Because communication is such a huge topic within leadership and life we have drawn on other courses that deal specifically with techniques and skills that you must develop to be an inspirational leader.

In particular these are:

The Power of Questions, which outlines why being able to ask great questions is a skill worth developing and what some of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself and others are, as well as what asking questions of others does to your relationship with them.

Dealing with People under Pressure - this deals again with the technique of beginning with the end in mind but specifically relates to how to get the best out of people who may be acting ungenerously towards you and also how to not let that affect you, should it happen, for the rest of the day. This is an important skill in communication as we don’t want to be carrying over any negativity from one encounter into the next and influencing it in a way that isn’t helpful.

Similarly, our Attitude course helps you with this skill, taking charge of how you yourself are being and feeling at all times of the day helps no end with your communication with others. Being able to acknowledge and take responsibility for how you are feeling is an incredible skill that most people won’t master in their lifetime.

The Difficult Conversations course will help you carry out the conversations that you may be nervous about because of the reaction of the other person. It will guide you through the preparation required and the techniques to make sure you get a positive outcome.

How to do a negative 1-2-1 will explain in more detail about the chimp brain and more specifically how to bypass the chimp brain so that you don’t elicit an emotional response at the start of a conversation when it would prove unhelpful to do so.

Feedback teaches you how to both give and receive feedback as well as praise so that you can build a culture where what you say is trusted as being genuine and fair. Learning how to receive feedback without defensiveness means you will model this behaviour for your team and enable the development of a culture where everyone strives for excellence and people’s fears about their egos won’t get in the way of the best idea winning out, driving to business growth and success.

And finally Listening - being able to listen with 100% focus is of supreme importance for an inspirational leader. We know you’re busy and that you have a 1000 things on your mind. But being able to shut them out and focus on the person in front of you is a way of enacting the adage that slow is fast. Multitasking is multi failing, focusing on a team member fully, means they trust that you are really listening, they will tell you things they wouldn’t otherwise and they feel important and valued. In turn they will reward you with loyalty and openness and innovation. Listening is one of the most fundamental skills required of an inspirational leader.

So this topic is a big one, that leads off into many other areas. Take you time with it and go through each of the courses in turn, practising the skills outlined in them and slowly but surely raising your awareness so that these tweaks become part of your habitual behaviour. Revisit certain videos when you need to in order to refresh your mind but keep practising and soon you’ll find that you are reaping the rewards of being an exceptional communicator.

The Magic Bullet of 100% Listening

Being a good listener is the magic bullet of communication. There is nothing more important than being able to fully 100% listen to the person to whom you are talking. In this video you will learn about why it is so powerful, you will learn how to make people feel important and valued in one easy step and you will be able to recognise when this kind of listening is appropriate and be able to invest your time knowing that it will reap fantastic results.

When we ask most people if they think they're a good listener most people initially say yes they think they're a good listener. Then they pause and they say well I can be when I want to be but a lot of the time I've got so much on my mind that I wish people would hurry up or I get distracted thinking about how much I have to do. And this is the problem with listening. We think we're better than we actually are.

I don't know about you but when I'm having a conversation with somebody and they start to think about something else I can tell. And it doesn't make me feel great. Similarly I can tell when someone is really invested in what I'm saying and paying 100% attention and that does make me feel great. But most people enter into a conversation with an idea of finishing the conversation or only getting what they want out of the conversation. When we do this we are conversing with only our own agenda in our mind and not the agenda of the other person. People get very frustrated when they are not heard or when they think they are not heard. In order to make someone feel important and valued the best thing you can do is listen to them.

Making people feel valued and important is vital if you're in a leadership role. If you don't make people feel important and valued then they won't have loyalty to you, they may focus on what's wrong with their job role or how frustrating you are, and what you don't do, rather than what you do do and your positive points. This is subconscious and based on the fact that they never quite get what they need from you and that is to be listened to and really heard.

What most people do in the workplace when people pop their heads in the door and want to have a word or when people approach your desk is carry on working but just peeping over the top of the computer at the person or turning their head a couple of times while still making notes or checking their phones/emails. When I act out this following scenario (type with hands), "go on I'm listening "most people recognise themselves immediately. Or when I have my phone in my hand and I look up and say "go on I'm listening "they do the same. Being made to feel as though you're an interruption in somebody's life makes you feel less important than the things that they are doing when you interrupt them. As a leader this is not a good way to make people feel. You are only as good as your team and people who feel better about themselves will perform better.

But listening does take time and sometimes it's time that you feel you don't have so let me try and convince you of the value of 100% listening over partial listening. What happens when you partially lesson is that you partially hear. This wastes time in the long run because you don't fully hear what a person has to say, they have to repeat it wasting time and then you have to pay full attention the second time which also wastes your time. It also frustrates them which in the long and short run has a negative impact on them personally and thus their work.

Partial listening also makes people less likely to volunteer their opinions and their creative or innovative ideas about how your products, processes, services could be better. Active listening also involves action. If somebody is telling you about a great idea they have had and you're 100% listening that's great but you also need to translate that interaction and feedback to them about how you've done that. It might be that you're not going to action that idea just yet for some completely sensible reason but if you don't feed that back to the person then they'll never know why their idea wasn't taken up and they will feel as though you didn't listen to them, they will be less likely to speak up in the future and more likely to feel a sense of frustration about their working environment or you personally.

So it's really important when somebody comes to talk to you that you stop what you're doing and turn to them giving them full attention eye contact positive body language and full focus. If you absolutely have to finish what you were in the middle of then telling people that and then closing down your computer and turning your chair around to focus on them with a smile, will make up for the fact that they feel as though they've interrupted you.

On our leadership programs we do an exercise that shows people the power of listening. I would like you to carry out this exercise with three people afterwards so listen carefully and see what it is we would like you to do. You're going to ask three separate people in your life in the workplace or at home the following question, ‘who’s been the most inspirational person in your life so far?’ Then you're going to be quiet and listen and pay full attention. Now the problem is we are taught in life to create rapport with someone by seeking out commonality. So for instance if they say my most inspirational person is Andy Murray and he's our brother-in-law we say, “oh wow that's great he is my brother-in-law he married my sister last summer and we see him every week.” But what that does is immediately put the conversational focus on yourself and takes it off the other person who duly starts asking you a lot of questions about Andy Murray. So what we're going to ask you to do in this exercise is not share any details about yourself or your own life or experience or who you find inspirational. Now people say sometimes that this isn't a good conversational technique but this is a training exercise so view it as such. Also those who say it isn't a good conversational technique haven't tried it and seen the amazing results that it achieves. I've had many a great conversation with people where I have barely said a word and it's all been about them. This is fine by me because other people are more interesting to me than I am. I know about myself what's happened in my life I don't need to talk about it all the time. But if I'm at a wedding and on a table with someone I don't know or if I'm going to a meeting then it's my aim to get to know the other person really well rather than have them get to know me really well although that might happen in time and that's fine.

So for this exercise you're only going to ask that question and then you're going to encourage them to talk and keep talking by asking follow-up questions such as what do you mean by that, what is it about that person that you find so inspiring, what is it that they do specifically that made you choose them rather than someone else, how has being inspired by them impacted your own life. You see there are many follow-up questions you can ask that keep a person talking and focused on themselves so you can focus on what they're saying. We are practising these techniques here in this situation because it's easier and you can have planned in a way beforehand. Once you're comfortable with not turning the conversation back on yourself and asking follow-up questions you can start applying the technique to all sorts of interactions in the workplace and at home. This will mean that your conversations are much higher quality, getting to the heart of the issue more quickly and effectively than half-hearted, half-listened to snippets of someone’s thoughts. My customers always tell me, especially my coaching customers, that I always ask the right question. The question that really gets to the heart of the matter. This is down to practising asking the follow-up question. All I do is drill deeper and deeper into what they're saying and then the right question reveals itself. This is a skill that you can acquire too, with practice.

Remember during this exercise not to share details about you and your life. You can react positively, with phrases such as, ‘oh that’s great I think he’s amazing too’, but don’t then talk about why you think he’s amazing, or the impact he’s had on your life, just get the conversational spotlight straight back to them. This is a technique that works well in real life too. You might say something like, “Andy Murray? Oh I love him too, what is it that makes you choose him?” And there you go, the spotlight is back on them. Or, ‘You mum? That’s great, your mum is amazing, what is it specifically that makes you choose her over everyone else?” This involves you, shows you’re fully invested in what they’re saying but still shift focus back to them as soon as possible.

We do another exercise in the training room where we start having a conversation with someone about their favourite holiday and then we look at our phones, check our emails, interrupt and talk about our own experiences. It’s amazing how quickly people start to become quite furious with us, and even after it’s been revealed to be an exercise to show how poor we are at communicating well on a daily basis, they still have residual feelings of mistrust and hurt, a feeling we sometimes have to work hard to eradicate. And this is only a very brief training exercise. Imagine if this carried on day after day?

When people don’t listen to us properly our whole sense of self esteem is affected. And our idea of our own self worth. It’s pretty big and it’s pretty important. Important enough for you, as a leader, to sit up and take note and to invest the time required so you are not impacting your team’s self worth.

But the beauty of this exercise and this technique is that it doesn't have to take ages. The conversation I want you to have about who inspires someone need only last five minutes. Five minutes is actually quite a long time to talk about yourself so it is easily long enough to make the person feel important and valued. When we carry out this exercise in the training room people come back from it with massive smiles on their faces. Such is the power of quality listening and quality conversation which makes feel valued and important. So pause the video now and write down three people with whom you're going to have this conversation.

Now I said earlier that this is a training exercise and it is, but this is a skill that you can take back into the workplace immediately and see great results from. So make sure that you carry out those three conversations, and that when you've done that you start transferring that 100% listening technique and follow questions to situations within your workplace. No training technique is worth it if all you do is do the homework you must take it with you into the workplace and start acting that behaviour on a daily basis. Then you'll get really really good at it and your start really reaping the rewards.

Enjoy having those conversations, they’re special, and will bring you a deeper relationship within minutes. What’s not to love about that?

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