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Three Ways to improve the #1 Skill leaders need (& struggle at) getting right

Three Ways to improve the #1 Skill leaders need (& struggle at) getting right

Take care of your people, set goals and priorities, lead as an example to others. These are fine traits to have as a leader … but they aren’t important. They are really nothing if you don’t have the #1 leadership skill.


In a recent poll, leaders were asked in what area they wanted to improve as a leader – with more than 22 skills listed – more than 75% of leaders said communication. More than 50% of that same group said that their people were their organization’s competitive advantage.

If people are so important, and communication is the way to get it done, why can’t we get it right?

Because we follow the golden rule (do unto others as you’d have them do unto you)instead of the platinum rule (do unto others as you’d have done to… themselves)! It’s hard to see from another’s viewpoint… in this case, communicate the way they need to hear something – communicate on an individual basis.

So… what can you do about it in the next 5 minutes?

1-     Actively Listen. Tomorrow – take 30 minutes and MBWA. Manage by walking around. Talk to each person – call them, if necessary – and see how they doing. No hidden agenda. Look for nonverbal cues for validation, actively listen to how they respond. Find out what’s on their minds – what’s driving them, what’s slowing them down.

2-     Make notes. When you listen to your people… do something. If your employee mentions they have had a problem getting papers signed by another department – don’t just say “uh huh” and pat yourself on the back for listening. Ask a question. Maybe they can solve it (if they can be based on a few directed questions by you – all the better). Maybe you can talk to your friend John – that takes 2 minutes for you and saves them 2 hours – and a lot of frustration.

3-     Recognize your first impression is probably wrongFirst impressions are formed in the first 4-7 seconds of meeting someone, and although those first impressions when you meet people may tend to be right. It is often found that when you listen to people in a situation unless you thoroughly understand the situation AND the individual – 9 times out of 10 – you will learn you have it wrong.

More than 60% of the time – people receiving texts from friends, family or otherwise – get the primary emotion (of how the sender is feeling or what they are conveying) wrong. If you can’t figure out what someone close to you is feeling – why do you think you’ll get it right with your employees – that you may not be as close to?

If it doesn’t make sense, ask. Clarify. If it’s important. Ask. Clarify. Make sure that your message is really being understood. If you’re not sure – ask.

This week – how can you try something new with your team?  How can you try listening in a way you haven’t tried before.

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