Effective Leadership Communication

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Inviting and Postponing Interruptions

communicating, intentional or not, is that you don’t want their information. If the situation is urgent and you find yourself getting impatient with interruptions, consider adding more structure to the meeting. Pause and outline a quick agenda:

    • What you are trying to accomplish right now
    • When you would like to field questions
    • When you would like to discuss risks or concerns

There is a big difference between not wanting people to raise questions, issues, and risks at all and not wanting to raise them right now. It sounds subtle, but it isn’t.

What If a Leader Might Be Making a Mistake?
There is a big difference between challenging people in a public forum and assuring that they are making informed decisions. In a professional setting, no one likes to appear foolish. If that seems obvious, please invent a time machine and send that message back to rookie me thirty years ago.

Let’s assume a team leader is talking about the testing schedule for the next two weeks and seems to have forgotten that another project has priority on the test server in week two. Some won’t mind the interruption to point that out; others might. To avoid seeming to challenge an impatient leader, here are two approaches that can work well:

    • Simplest (passive, but gets the job done)—Follow up one on one to assure a leader has any important information you think is essential to the task at hand. This avoids public embarrassment and focuses on the issue. Be ready to be told, “You should have said something in the meeting.” You probably should have, but you got the information out and you did it in a diplomatic way.
    • More expedient (but requires more finesse)—Look for a moment when you can ask a question that will lead to the relevant information, for example “I wonder if test-server priority might be an issue?” Let the question hang there. Asking the question will likely give the leader pause. This gives you or others a chance to bring up the conflict as part of naturally exploring the problem.

Which would you prefer if you were running the meeting? How might you react?

Ideally, we are all patient and considerate at all times. We never get grumpy or curt or feel thwarted when someone raises objections to our plans. Meanwhile, back on Earth, there are humans involved in the communication. Whether you are the leader or the led, effective communication is respectful of the situation in which the message is delivered and the communication style of those involved.

About the author

Payson Hall's picture Payson Hall

Payson Hall is a consulting project manager for Catalysis Group, Inc. in Sacramento, California. Payson consults on project management issues and teaches project management. Email Payson at payson@catalysisgroup.com. Follow him on twitter at @paysonhall.

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