In this video, I’m going to take all of my work consulting with hundreds of top universities and companies on how to make connection easy and smooth the process of communication. I’m going to share 4 really concrete steps that you can take immediately after watching this video and apply to your own context. I also went into my basement and dug out a poster from that was hanging on my wall my freshman year of college. It’s kind of disgusting. I’m going to share that with you because there’s a really important lesson embedded on how to disrupt this lack of communication you might be experiencing or frustrated by. Let’s get into it.
Often our lack of communication in some way is caused by…
- What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.
- We just don’t do it. We just don’t actually say it.
The 4 steps that I’m going to share with you today which I’ve got some signs printed out for that are going to help unpack and make really visual and concrete and simplify.
Simplify, an otherwise complex process of solving this lack of communication. They are proactive strategies though. What I’ll say as far as a non-proactive strategy or like in the moment strategy is you’ve got to point out the elephant in the room. This poster, I intentionally hung on my freshman dorm room because I knew that ben and I, my roommate were going to be getting in some conflict. There was going to be plenty of opportunities for us to disagree about things. I knew that we actually had to create the habit of pointing out the elephant in the room. It wasn’t until much later that one of my mentors Eric Tyler who authored a book called The Best Advice So Far. You can check that out here and the link in the description. One of the chapters the unpacks this idea that once you say something, oftentimes half the power leaves it. It’s incredibly true. It’s amazing how a lack of communication can fester and create all of these problems and stories and assumptions and feelings and anger and resentment in a group or just also lack of productivity. It’s an amazing phenomena on how sometimes literally just pointing out the dynamic calling it out and having a simple conversation about it. No techniques, no steps, no nothing. Just calling it out and having a dialogue about it makes a really big difference.
Typically, if your communication is not working, up the bandwidth. If you’re like email fighting back and forth with somebody and you’re not able to figure out what’s going on or there’s a lack of communication or you’ve sent the email but they haven’t actually read the email, up the bandwidth. Send a video, call them, show up at their office. They’re probably not their doorstep. Schedule a Zoom meeting. If it’s something important enough that you really need people to get across, I would involve them with that communication. Anything asynchronous, I don’t count it as communicated until they’ve told me that they’ve actually got it in some way. Oftentimes, I’ll ask for some confirmation a check “Yes, I read it.” I’ll send out a video to my clients and say, “Hey, after watching this video, can you drop a comment in the bottom with one of your challenges related to communication right now?” When I get 80 comments below, I know for sure that 80 people watched that video to the point where I shared that. 4 steps, here we go. I am going to run through these pretty quickly. Each of these represents a 1 to 3 hour module as a part of a leadership lab program that I run with organizations. I’m going to give you the super snapshot because you don’t have a lot of time, you’re busy. Let me give you the spark notes so that you can take and apply some really practical things right away.
Offset Lack of Communication
Step number 1 is to offset this lack of communication, move from a mindset of knowing to a mindset of learning Organizations and people that are stuck in the mindset of knowing something aren’t actually learning. And when you’re not learning as an organization, you’re dying. When you’re not communicating as an organization, you’re dying. The easiest way to go from a mindset of knowing and a culture of knowing to a culture of learning is to up your curiosity level. My subscribers know that I’m a huge fan of curiosity as a force for change. What I’ll say is when you reward curiosity in an organization, all of a sudden the lack that you feel in communication tends to go down.
Shift from Making Assumptions to Exploring Possibilities
Step number 2, making that knowing and learning a little bit more concrete is you’ve got to shift your organization and yourself and individuals from the mindset of making assumptions to exploring possibilities. When we’re in this place, we get stuck. This is not a bad thing to do. This is making assumptions is very useful. Can you imagine if you walked into a restaurant and you never made assumptions. You’d have to like figure out the whole process every time, it would be very cumbersome. Making assumptions is great, right? But if you want to offset this lack of communication, you want to encourage a your culture and your people to explore possibilities. The easiest way to do that is taking is not only up your curiosity but encourage people to double their daily question count. When you double your daily question count, you double the amount of assumptions that you’re overturning and you double the amount of learning and exploring that’s happening in your group. Anybody who’s read my book Ask Powerful Questions Create Conversations That Matter knows that kids ask about 20 times as many questions per day as adults. I’m not inviting you to go back to asking as many questions as you did as a kid. But adults only ask 6 to 12 questions a day. If you double that count and you’re in a 12 to 24 range, the lack of communication measurably goes down.
Now, in between steps 2 and 3, I need to share that one of the most common questions that I ask an organization before I work with them is “What is the root of one of your biggest problems?” When I create… When I turn those answers into a giant word cloud, the word that is always biggest is the word lack. Which is interesting because the root of the word lack has connotations around blaming. When we say there’s a lack of communication, you might be watching this video or thinking about this in the context of “Well, my boss is not communicating” or “My employees aren’t communicating with me”. That might be true but just recognizing that you can’t make anybody do anything. The best thing you can do is model really great communication. Now, here’s a really tough dynamic to model but really important to shifting this culture of communication.
Shifting Your Mindset from Right to Openness
Step number 3 is shift yourself your people and your culture from this mindset of a need to be right to openness. When I say a need to be right, I’m not talking about like, “Yeah, you know, I like to be right.” I’m talking uh like it’s a fight-flight or need-to-be-right response that goes off in our brain, right? We care more about being right than having healthy, productive relationships and conversations a lot of the time. Letting that go to create this culture of openness where there’s open communication happening where you’re open to the outcome, you’re open to what people share, what’s required for this to shift from a mindset of a need to be right to a level of openness is admitting your own mistakes and your own contributions to the dynamic. You might be feeling a lack of communication. I would say it might be somebody else’s fault. However, the tool to help them shift to a more open place, a more open place of communication is to admit your contribution to the dynamic. So powerful to go into um your employee’s office and say, “Hey, I want to recognize that I had intended to be really clear in my expectations. I just haven’t.” I’d love to have a sit down right now and get really clear with what you expect of me and what I expect of you so that we’re clear and there is no lack of communication. You see how that admits your own contribution points out the elephant in the room, sets a really clear intention for how to offset that lack of communication. This is a big one.
Talk About it All the Time
Step number 4, talk about it all the time. You can catch it in recordings of keynotes you can catch it in live keynotes or virtual keynotes that I’ve given. It is so default to listen to win. And if you want to improve your lack of communication, you’ve got to shift yourself into a mindset of listening to understand. Now, listening to win isn’t necessarily like… Not the same as need to be right. It’s not like you need to win the conversation or one-up someone. Although it can manifest in that way. Listening to win is oftentimes waiting for your chance to talk. Oftentimes, when we’re listening, we’re not really actually retaining what somebody else is saying which is a problem because that means there’s a lack of communication. When we’re listening to talk, we’re not actually hearing what the other person’s saying. Listening to understand is just for a minute setting aside your lifetime of experience, your opinions, your perspective and just employing the age-old advice of seeking to understand rather than seeking to be understood. Such a powerful differentiator to offset a culture of ineffective communication. I trust this video is useful to you. Like I said, these are the spark notes of a larger leadership lab. Wrote a book about creating conversations that matter.
Created card decks to help you do it in your own organization. A lot of what I just described you can download digital versions of for free in our digital connection toolkit linked below. By the way, in case you’re wondering. Jebediah, the elephant in the room is named Jebediah. Fun fact if we ever meet in person. If you come up and call me Jebediah I’ll be very impressed.