Resourced Leaders

'Resourced Leaders' is a premier Australian based Leadership Performance organisation that specialises in working with senior executives, leaders and high performing individuals who aspire to greater levels of personal leadership and success.

Crossed wires - communication breakdowns

Posted by Phil Owens
Phil Owens
Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He
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on Thursday, 22 November 2012 in Leadership

One of the keys to success in business is how effectively you can communicate.

Recently working with an organisation in a strategic planning meeting, I saw a classic example of ‘poor communication’ – and with some facilitated intervention they the protagonists were able to get to an outcome.

Person A – I hear you, but you are assuming ‘X’ and ‘Y’.

Person B – But you can’t keep doing ‘Z’ and expect us to just go along with it!

Back and forward; accusation, obfuscation, criticism….

Does this happen in your workplace?  Both of them were motivated to get a result, but their inability to communicate meant that they, and the whole group, were stuck.

What would you recommend in this circumstance?  How would you intervene? 

Most of the room either ‘switched off’ (these days this means checking smart phones) or took sides.  What would you do?

Here are some simple tips to break the impasse and improve communication:

1:  Intent and expectations

Define what the intent of the communication or discussion is, and what expectations each party  has.  When these are unclear, both sides can be aiming at different targets and end up dancing in circles.

2:  Follow THAT formula

THAT stands for Truth, Honesty, Accuracy, Tact.  Apply these to enhance any difficult conversation

Truth:  What does this topic and its outcome mean to me, and what does it mean ABOUT me?  If you are not aware of these things, you will never be in a position to control your emotions around a topic.

Honesty:  What about yourself and your knowledge of the topic are you prepared to honestly share?  What will you consider about what the other person’s arguments – will you HONESTLY appraise them, or take your fixed position forward.

Accuracy:  How can I put my position or argument forward with efficiency and effectiveness?  How can I avoid under-communicating or over-communicating?

Tact:  What do I know about the other person that will allow me to deliver the message in a way they can receive and understand?  Tact is the art of communicating to someone in their language, in their place of comfort, so that your message is not rejected and your ideas accepted.

With this group, I facilitated the discussion using intention and expectations.  Once the group was clear on the ‘goal’, this provided a valuable focus that allowed multiple viewpoints to be appreciated, rather than have ideas in competition.

It is a great lesson that we know how to talk, but we sometimes may not be effective at communicating.  I invite you to consider how you can enhance your communication with these simple tips.

When have you run into communication ‘breakdowns’?

What do you do to get past them?

Have you used these, or other approaches to enhance your communication?

I’d love to hear your stories!

Philip is one of Australia’s leading performance and leadership specialists. He honed his skills working with executives and leaders around the world, coaching and consulting in over 30 countries, from entrepreneurial start-ups to boards of multi-billion dollar businesses.


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