Today’s most effective leaders are changing their communication style compared to what worked in prior years. The old model of top-down, formal communication – based on a command and control mentality – is being replaced by a “conversational” style that is more personal.
Research reported in Harvard Business Review* explains that this new style has four main components:
1. Intimacy. Leaders work to develop trust with others. This has to be earned by being authentic and straightforward. This is not done overnight – it takes time to build. The key to building intimacy and trust is truly listening to others. Get out of the office, talk with people directly, and be attentive to what they have to share.
2. Interactivity. Your conversations with others need to be with them; not talking at them. You should “listen to understand” them, versus “listening to respond” – or trying to convince them of your point of view. Begin the conversations with a sincere interest in understanding what others think and feel.
3. Inclusion. Invite employees at all levels of the organization in telling its story. Asking employees to be involved in this way will be a surprise at first, since communications are usually rigidly controlled. But ask them, for example, “Why do you think that people should use our services/programs/services? What benefits do you see?” Maybe you video some of these and put them on your web site. Or make a brochure that highlights some of the views of your employees.
4. Intentionality. Engage in dialogue with employees about what they think the strategy of the organization should be. What are their hopes and dreams? As this get decided upon then utilize conversations to check in on their thoughts about how the strategy implementation is going. Continually remind everyone of the vision and future you are all building together.
A conversational style of two-way dialogue versus telling people what to do or making public announcements may take more time, but will result in a more highly engaged workforce. It will also enrich the organization decision-making process with diverse views that will improve the quality of those decisions.
*Leadership is a Conversation, Groysberg, B. & Slind, M. Harvard Business Review, June 2012, pp. 76 – 84.