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On the Harvard Business Review website there are more than 10,000 articles, books, webinars and videos that mention communication skills.  Would you agree that effective communication is essential to success in business?

For my clients who struggle with adjusting style to their audience in formal presentations or everyday interactions, I recommend the following methodology:

  1. Identify your goal
  • So you can be intentional about your approach
  1. Know your audience
  • What are their expectations and personality types?
  1. Get feedback in advance
  • For formal presentations and discussions that might be difficult
  • Build consensus with key stakeholders who will support your position
  1. Follow up
  • Ensure your message was heard
  • Learn how you can improve

The more you practice, the more effectively you will be able to communicate in any situation.  As they say in the theatre business, “Break a leg!”

In a session on creating a “Secret Sauce for Successful Leaders” my client team identified these ingredients:  vision, communication, confidence, positive role modeling, reliability, trustworthiness and transparency with generous dashes of encouragement, motivation, appreciation, fun, coaching, caring and steadiness.

Potential Distractions

In our next exercise, “How to Avoid Burning Your Fingers”, the group identified the following potential distractions to implementing that Secret Sauce recipe:

  • External market factors
  • Loss of business
  • Morale / Negativity
  • Resistance
  • Communication
  • Safety or other incidents
  • Talent
  • Resource management
  • Personal distractions

Celebrate Successes

Could you choose the perfect dessert for each member of your team without asking them what they want?  Our last item on the menu for this session, “Why We Shouldn’t Skip Dessert,” explored the importance of celebrating successes in ways that motivate each individual.  Here are some of the techniques that were mentioned:

  • Listening
  • Trust
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Support
  • Involvement in decision-making
  • Meaningful work
  • Autonomy
  • Training & development
  • Career advancement
  • Money

I invite you to create your own secret sauce for leadership recipe, develop a plan to put the lid on potentially painful distractions, and serve each of your team members a dessert that will motivate them to succeed in any kind of market environment.

I recently facilitated a Leading Through a Downturn session for leaders in the energy industry.  Knowing you’re in a cyclical business doesn’t make the downturn any less painful.

Impact of a Leader

Leadership can have a huge impact on whether companies and people survive or thrive. Warren Bennis, an organizational consultant and author of many books on leadership, said, “A leader doesn’t just get the message across. A leader is the message.”

Recipe for Success

In an exercise on creating a “Secret Sauce for Successful Leaders” my client team identified these ingredients:  vision, communication, confidence, positive role modeling, reliability, trustworthiness and transparency. They also suggested adding generous dashes of encouragement, motivation, appreciation, fun, coaching, caring and steadiness.

Next steps included “How to Avoid Burning Your Fingers” – developing a plan for dealing with potential distractions that might prevent them from using their secret sauce — and “Why We Shouldn’t Skip Dessert” — celebrating successes in ways that motivate people.   Check out https://csbryan.com/dont-burn-your-fingers/ to find out what happened.

When 850 people attended my webinar on Fierce Conversations for the Society of Women Engineers it confirmed that this is a hot topic.  You may be familiar with the book by Susan Scott, who defines a Fierce Conversation as one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real. That means we have to be authentic and say what we mean. We have to resist the temptation to answer, “Everything is fine” when it really isn’t. We have to say what is true – in a way that others can hear it.

You Make the Change Happen

Often we avoid engaging someone in a conversation because we worry that they might feel hurt or get defensive. They might refuse to talk or get emotional. But Fierce Conversations can’t be dependent on how others respond. If you know something must change, then you’re the one who must change it. 

How to Start
The Fierce Conversations model includes an opening statement in which you:
  1. Name the issue
  2. Provide a specific example of the behavior or situation you want to change
  3. Describe your emotions about this issue
  4. Clarify what is at stake
  5. Identify your contribution to this problem
  6. Indicate your wish to resolve this issue
  7. Invite the other person to respond
Next Steps
  1. Listen and ensure that the other person feels understood
  2. Reach resolution and determine how to move forward
  3. Make an agreement and commit to holding each other accountable
As Susan Scott says, “Our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. The quality of our lives is largely determined by the quality of the questions we ask – and the quality of our answers.”  
 
What Fierce Conversation do you need to have?
what you need

In a recent team building session, the participants said they really enjoyed learning more about their colleagues and appreciated understanding themselves better.  They also valued the opportunity to practice what I call the recipe for success – asking for what you need.

Accept Responsibility for Getting What You Need

Whether coaching an executive or working with a team, my message is the same:  learn what you need and ask for it.  It can be really hard for high achievers to admit that they need something from someone else, but no one succeeds in a vacuum and we can’t expect others to read our minds.

Specifics Help You Tell Others What You Need

Most people are willing to help their colleagues, and being specific makes that easier.  If you need more time to reflect on a complex issue and you are being pressured to make a decision quickly, you could explain, “I can give you an answer now or I can give you a better answer at noon tomorrow.”

Know What Contributes to Your Success

You may be a very team-oriented person who also needs to have your individual efforts recognized.  Your colleagues are probably not aware of this need because your usual behavior doesn’t give them a clue.  This makes it especially important for you to let your boss and key colleagues know that you are a lot more productive when you are able to measure and receive feedback on your performance.

Now that you have the recipe for success – whip up something good!