Leadership And The Art Of Communication

The art of communication is the language of Leadership – John Hume. Communication is one of those skills that is so natural and is used so often that we fail
06 Oct 2018 10:00
Leadership And The Art Of Communication

The art of communication is the language of Leadership – John Hume.

Communication is one of those skills that is so natural and is used so often that we fail to ask ourselves a simple but crucial question which is: Are we any good at communicating?

The honest truth is that we may not be as good as communicating as we think.

There are disagreements and misunderstandings in workplaces everywhere every day which are caused by poor communication.

For leaders the challenge is greater because when people are asked about what areas their bosses can improve, communication is often mentioned as an area that leaders are really lacking.

I’m often called into companies to help them improve communication not only between the leaders but among all staff.

In this article, I will explain some of the key principles that every team needs to adopt in order to improve communication and therefore the effectiveness of the whole team.

Low tolerance threshold

Every successful team I have ever met have what I call a “low tolerance threshold.”

This is when issues, concerns or suggestions are raised at a very early stage while a lot of teams bury and only raised important issues when it becomes more of a concern to the individual.

The danger of this is that when issues or concerns are buried, they fester and the longer they fester the more they eat away at people.

When they come to light it can be more destructive than it would have been if they were raised earlier.

So instead of the team learning and becoming more unified the team has arguments and relationships are permanently damaged.

The sooner people are able to raise issues, concerns and suggestions the better it is for the team but it’s difficult to talk freely because we don’t want to appear disrespectful.

We don’t want to upset people in case we are wrong. So what do we do?

The truth

When communicating it’s important to remember that everyone has a different view of the world.

This view has been built on a series of unique life experiences, each experience teaches us what works and what doesn’t until we are who we are today communicating in a way that we think is correct.

For example, if when growing up someone receives praise for being quiet and when they did speak up they didn’t get the results they wanted then they have conditioned themselves in believing that it’s normal to remain quiet.

So for this individual it is how the world is and this is the truth yet this may not be the universal truth.

The universal truth

When communicating it is important to remember that whatever a person’s view is, for that person it is valid and justified even if you don’t agree.

It is also important that people understand how they see the world is not the same as others may see it.

So, what they believe is the truth may not be the universal truth that is shared by others.

What I’ve explained here is the most common reason for disagreements in the workplace.

Two people share the same experience but they view it in very different ways.

As an example a comment is made which one person thinks is funny but the other person feels is inappropriate, the listener thinks the speaker is rude and the speaker believes the listener is too sensitive.

They are both right and wrong at the same time.

Don’t assume intent

People tend to assume that other people think the same way that they do so they assume the intent of the speaker based on what the intent would be if it was them that was speaking.

This explains why people find it easier to communicate with some people more than others.

If we surround ourselves with people who think similar to us then we find communication easier but there’s also a risk.

When people are like-minded then they share a narrow view of the world and if you don’t see the complete view then you will miss things.

I’ve worked with several organisations that have very smart people within a leadership team yet they make very simple mistakes.

It’s because the leader has made the mistake of surrounding themselves with people who are too alike, there’s no diversity of thought.

Provide clarity

In our personal lives we tend to surround ourselves with people who know us very well.

They know what we believe in, what we value and how we react to situations so as a result we don’t have to explain ourselves so much because it’s obvious what we mean yet in the workplace what is obvious to one person is not obvious to another.

A leader’s role is to provide clarity especially in areas where the team mistakenly believes clarity is not required.


I was with a team recently who wanted to improve communication so we did a small exercise in which everyone had to explain how they wanted feedback.

The team was surprised with just how different each persons preferences were.

Some wanted be told directly what they did wrong, with no messing around while others wanted suggestions with comments, some wanted practical examples while others didn’t mind.

The challenge with communication is that all of us need to recognise that everyone is incredibly unique and as a result communicate in slightly different ways.

We need to recognise these differences and embrace them and it’s the leader’s role to allow the team to see how the rest of the team thinks so that people will realise that just because people are different from them it doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong.

If the leader can teach the art of communication then the team will become comfortable raising suggestions, sharing concerns and receiving feedback.

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