During my many years of working with leadership teams, I can whole heartedly say the key to leadership teams working well together is good communication. Having a leadership team that has good and open communication or at least having everyone committed to trying to achieve that is essential. Often when I first start working with clients, they have a crisis situation whereby their leaders are at locker heads, are not talking to one another or are using less than optimal communication that results in defensive and conflicting relationships. Leadership meetings are not as productive as they ought to be and are leaving attendees feeling drained and conflicted. This is a lose-lose situation. This way of working has often, alarmingly, become ingrained and if the leaders are not working harmoniously and towards common goals, the overall culture of the organisation is also negatively impacted.
A high performing leadership team is one that can work through challenges in a way that results in stronger relationships, engagement and performance. The best teams communicate effectively. And it starts with the leaders and managers of a business. A leadership team that is not communicating well will have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the company, so it’s important to lead from the top and ensure your leadership team is an operating as well as possible. Much of the friction in leadership teams I have worked comes about because the leaders are not explicit enough about what they need from each other. Building more clarity around your needs is crucial to improving your relations with your leadership team.
The first thing you need to do is establish a commitment to improve.
Building a strong leadership team with aligned goals takes time and a constant commitment to it’s ongoing improvement. It’s vitally important that everyone in the leadership team acknowledges that the current communication model could be much better and more productive. If you have everyone’s buy-in and commitment to make things better, you will have everyone eager to establishing a better way forward. This is the beauty of setting time aside with the intention of building a stronger leadership team. By making this a specific objective, not just part of the agenda of a bigger meeting, you are setting an intention for improvement. I love facilitating leadership workshops and find a way to break through any hesitations or resistance to change to ensure everyone’s onboard and willing to change. Make this a team-building opportunity where individuals have time to build some common ground and strengthen the rapport they have with one another. Even better if you can make it off-site to get a more relaxed perspective from everyone.
The next thing to do is to take a look at how you currently communicate and find ways to improve it. The most practical way to start building a stronger leadership team is to commit to getting clear about what you need from one another. Having clarity about what you need requires you to be specific. Lack of clarify can come about from a multitude of reasons. Often people feel awkward when asking for something, or don’t want to appear too demanding, and therefore start with “When you have time.” Or “I know how busy you are…”. Whilst this kind of preamble may show your empathy and understanding, it can also make your request less clear and possibly open to misinterpretation. Sometimes, people can come across as dis-respecting boundaries and stepping on people’s toes by inadvertently telling them how to do their job or what they need to do. This causes others to feel and act defensively. Commit to developing a communication culture whereby people are comfortable with and become used to clear and specific messaging. By simply expressing what you need, in a clear and specific way, you can avoid unnecessary conflict. Here are some very practical ways in which you can start to be clear about what you need. Starts emails with the following:
- I would like to discuss
- I’m looking for opinions
- I would like your advice
- I would like your support
- I would like your approval
- I would like an update
- I would like to give an update
- I would like to direct
Being clear and specific about what you need, avoids getting into any unnecessary conflicts with your leadership team. There is no need to get into discussions about who’s priorities are more important or make unnecessary judgements about how others should be doing their jobs.
Building a strong leadership team is essential to the overall wellbeing of the company. Setting a leadership culture where everyone feels comfortable by being clear, specific and direct about what you need, whilst respecting boundaries, is key to good communication.
How do your company’s leaders talk to one another? I specialise in bringing leaders together. Could your leadership team benefit from one of my tailored workshops? Please get in touch today. I’d love to help!