Communicating at work is similar to breathing air: yes, we need to do it so that we can do everything else we want to do, but we don’t usually think about it too much. So if someone suggests to you that you should breathe better, a natural response might be to brush it off sarcastically and say, Yeah OK buddy, I’ve been breathing air my whole life—I think I know how to do it! Here’s the thing: just because we do something all the time doesn’t mean we do it well.
And while not prone to thinking very actively about communication, most people would probably acknowledge that it’s important in doing great work (similar to how most of us would acknowledge that breathing good, clean air is important in living a great life). But even though most people acknowledge the importance of communication, most people aren’t sure they’re willing to do very much about improving how they communicate. Why is that?
I recently ran into this Forbes article that outlines 5 excuses leaders use to avoid taking steps to improve their communication. The excuses range from thinking you don’t have time to not wanting to appear weak when getting help to not acknowledging that the communication skills that got you where you are today won’t necessarily get you where you want to go next. It’s a quick read, and I recommend it.
The excuse that resonates the most with me in the article has to do with not realizing that, as you evolve from an individual contributor to a manager and eventually to a strategic leader, your communication abilities also need to evolve. It can be a tough realization because evolution is change, and change is difficult. And even though you might understand, at an intellectual level, the benefits of communicating more strategically, it’s natural to feel like you’re knocking yourself back down to beginner status when you acknowledge the need to acquire a new set of communication skills.
In addition to feeling like a beginner (an uncomfortable feeling for most of us), there’s often a fear of loss associated with acknowledging that you need additional skills. You might think to yourself: If I’m not going to use that transactional, directive type of communication that helped me to become a high-performing manager, then I might lose that skill. What most of my clients end up discovering is that you tend not to lose skills you have; you’re simply adding new ones as you practice communicating in a way that inspires, connects, and motivates. And yes, you may end up using those older skills a bit less, but it’s only because the new ones are providing more value.
So when it comes to your workplace communication, are you doing it the best way you can? (Are you breathing good, clean air, so to speak?) Or are you leaving some value on the table because of your communication? If so, get over the fears you may have and the excuses you may be thinking of, and get yourself the help you need to bring your communication game to the level you want it to be!
Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with intention to get the business results they want. If you’re interested in working with Guillermo, sign up for a free meeting to explore how he can help.