As an executive coach, I've worked with thousands of managers and business leaders whose personal language sabotaged their effectiveness at driving change, not to mention their day-to-day team management.
For your Inner Leader to shine through, you need to master your personal language--your way of communicating your company’s goals and how your team needs to work to meet them.
Meet “Howard,” a vice president in a prestigious global professional services firm. Howard came to me because he was increasingly frustrated and stressed by what he thought was his team’s inability to follow his instructions. After several conversations, however, Howard realized that his own communication issues were decreasing his effectiveness as a leader. To change, Howard needed to master his personal language by learning to ask open-ended questions and truly listen to the response.
The simple rule for business professionals is to ask open-ended questions that start with the word what. What is factual, and why is emotional. By asking questions that begin with what, your listeners will think and begin to draw their own conclusions. And if you ask these kinds of questions, you will be much more successful in relating your requests to your team.
Howard agreed to complete the following exercise: For every meeting/phone call/interaction, he prepared six to ten what questions. He asked his questions and really listened to the answers, rather than reverting to a “tell” posture and continuing to ask more questions.
Here are some examples of “what questions” that you could use:
- What does success of this (project, meeting, presentation) look like?
- What are the top-three steps to achieve success?
- What about your idea/direction will contribute to the success of this (project, meeting, presentation)?
- What is the ideal outcome?
- What would that ideal outcome look like?
- What is the permanent solution here?
- What do you want to happen?
- What is the truth here?
Howard diligently followed this concept of asking what questions, and in six months his frustration and stress level had decreased significantly. His personal language became razor precise, and he is delighted at how his staff and colleagues have responded. Howard’s Inner Leader is smiling.
By recognizing that his personal communication style was sabotaging his effectiveness and incorporating this one change to the way that he communicated with his team, Howard became the kind of leader a competitive, success-driven organization needs.