Leader Communication Skills: How To Have Difficult Conversations

Leader communication skills are key to improving performance. “The secret to extraordinary performance is better business conversations inside organizations.”  – Rod Collins in Leadership in a Wiki World

Conversation is how strategy gets translated into action. Conversation is how customer values get translated into innovative products, seamless processes, and outstanding service. Conversation is the fuel for collaboration, negotiation, and problem solving. And better business conversations can dramatically improve business results.

Yet for decades, employee surveys in thousands of organizations have indicated that poor “communication” is the greatest cause of employee disengagement, and disengagement leads to lower levels of customer satisfaction, productivity, profits, quality, and innovation.

Specifically, employees say they don’t know how their job connects with the Company mission.  In addition, they feel they don’t get enough feedback, don’t feel their opinions are valued, don’t feel they’re sufficiently informed about what is going on. Managers, on the other hand, also feel their own supervisors don’t communicate effectively with them, but tend to feel they themselves ARE communicating effectively with their employees.

Our research over the past 30 years shows that managers often handle day-to-day task-focused conversations reasonably well. But the difficult conversations aimed at building competence and commitment or producing change are often handled poorly or avoided altogether.  Our research further shows that senior level managers struggle with this must as much as first line managers, and often find it harder to admit that they have difficulty.

Enhancing leader communication skills to handle important business conversations helps you achieve important benefits:

  • measurably higher levels of performance
  • higher levels of employee engagement and accountability
  • improved business outcomes
  • less time wasted having the same difficult conversations over and over
  • employees committed to higher levels of performance
  • greater alignment of individual performance with Company goals

Leader Communication Skills Training highlights:

  • Leader communication skills: 11 tools for effective business conversations
  • The conversation strategy or “path” – how to get mutual understanding and get on the same page
  • The “teachable moment” conversation – how to make every business conversation an opportunity for coaching
  • How to have difficult conversations at work
  • The direction-setting conversation – how to gain understanding and commitment to important business goals; how to communicate the how as well as the what
  • The “maintenance” conversation – how to stay in touch with what matters to your employees, and how to keep the relationship open and productive
  • The “check-in” conversation – how to check on progress toward goals before it’s too late to redirect performance
  • The problem-solving conversation – how to address poor performance and get genuine commitment to changed behavior and improved results
  • How to deal with the inevitable special challenges in these business conversations: conflict, disagreement, uncommunicative employees, disengaged employees,

Leader Communication Skills Methodology

Learning effective leader communication skills is like learning to play a sport or a musical instrument. You can read about it or watch a pro and become more “familiar” with it – but to be able to do it, you have to practice.  Participants in Leader Communication Skills spend most of their workshop time in practices with coaching and feedback in P2P Videolabs – AlexanderHancock’s trademarked process for rapid development of business communication skills. They bring their own real situations to use in the practice sessions.

We also recommend administering our Leader Communication Skills Assessment before the training, and again 9-12 months after the training. The survey asks employees of the managers in the workshop to evaluate their manager’s communication behavior. The data from the employees provides a strong impetus for managers to improve their skills, and provides a baseline for measuring improvement. Contact us for data on the improvement demonstrated by over 1000 managers.

Leader Communication Skills Customized Solutions

To ensure that training is not just an “event,” but instead produces enduring results, we customize Leader Communication Skills to fit your unique situation, business strategy, culture, and people.  After discussion with you and other experts within your organization, we select the emphasis, specific skills to be developed, key learning points, exercises, and case studies for practice to create a solution tailored just for you.

Leader Communication Skills Applications

The following are some of the ways our clients have used custom versions of Leader Communication Skills:

  • To dramatically change the culture of an organization to focus on improving key business metrics
  • To significantly improve the level of coaching by first line and mid level managers
  • To improve employee engagement scores
  • To strengthen the interpersonal skills of managers in a technology organization
  • To significantly improve customer satisfaction scores in a customer service firm
  • To build a foundation of essential leadership communication skills
  • To make sure managers are having important difficult conversations

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