The Real Reason No One Listens When You Speak

3 Steps to Communicate Powerfully with Your Team

People have been figuring out ways to communicate with each other since they first set foot on the earth—from cave drawings and hieroglyphics to modern day emojis. 😎

We’ve become masters of getting our ideas across. Without dialogue, our teams disintegrate. But communication requires more than the transmission of information.

On a boat flying across the bay, crew members must become efficient and effective at relaying information. Wasting time and energy, or worse, risking miscommunication, just won’t do.

In your business, what are your critical communication points? Do you speak to employees or team members in person or via video calls? Will a team member text you with a question, call you, email you, or wait until you come asking? How does your behavior influence how willing teammates are to communicate with you?

Every interaction is a potential miscommunication unless you are intentional about integrating.  

The Communication Checklist

As you re-envision what you want successful communication to look like on your team, take these three steps:

1. Identify

It’s also important to identify the key people with whom you need to communicate the most—and help leaders on your team do the same with their key personnel. Everyone needs a leader who will hear him or her. As a leader, you must take responsibility for communication as far as it is within your control.

2. Adapt

Integrated communication depends on doing it in ways others understand and appreciate. Does one member love to contact you directly? Give them a chance to do so.

Are they independent and work on their own until checked upon? Be sure to check in on them at regular intervals.

It’s impossible—and not necessary—to get everyone to speak the same language. Do your best to integrate with the people you lead and speak to them using their preferred style.

3. Ask

When I’m working with turnarounds or start-ups, I like doing critical communication in morning huddles. These are short team meetings designed to communicate critical information, focus the team, and get back at it.

To make sure you are communicating effectively, consider these questions:

  • What are the critical components I need to communicate?
  • What does my team need to know?
  • Whom should I tell first?
  • Are there any critical communication points being missed?
  • Is my communication one-way or two-way?
  • Is the message I’m trying to deliver the message that’s being received?

People Who Listen are People Who Feel Heard

All communication is not created equal. Many leaders technically say all the right information—but they’re still not communicating. They’re just transmitting. Because if you are talking and nobody is listening, you aren’t communicating.

In the military, when somebody has given an order, the soldiers respond back with a term called “Hooah!” It stands for H.U.A. Heard. Understood. Acknowledged. Effective communication asks for an echo check from the team, a confirmation that not only have they heard, but they understand what to do, acknowledge their role, and are moving to action.

Don’t mistake leadership monologues for company dialogue. Communication means not only that transmission has occurred, but also that recipients have received the information—and they know what to do with it.

As a leader start the communication evaluation with yourself. Perform a communication audit. Ask your team members to rate your communication skills, and take what they say to heart.

Then perform a listening audit. Work to listen to your team members and use their best input.

When people feel truly heard, they rise to the occasion every time. When you start listening to them, they’ll start listening to you.

How to Make Sense of Your Team Performance

Identify Where Underperformance Strikes to Blow by the Competition

Measuring Your Team Performance

If someone dropped you in the middle of nowhere Alaska with just a map and an X on it… would you know how to get there?

Of course not. (And if you attempted, would be lucky to avoid frostbite.)

Because, as any adventurer knows, before you can move towards a goal, you need to know where you are on the map. You would need to identify some landmarks to gauge where you are and some checkpoints to measure your progress toward the goal.

Evaluating the right route for your team—even if you know where to go—requires the same assessment. Any leader needs to know the landmarks or checkpoints that lie between the organization and optimal performance.

When assessing where you are as a team, there are two general categories of landmarks or Key Performance Indicators (KPI) you can use: tangible and intangible.

Tangible KPIs

As a general leadership rule, you should stay out of the operational weeds. It’s your job to plan and sustain the big-picture and train up the right delegates for detail work.

However, assessing your team well does require a season in the weeds to really understand who is doing what.

Only then can you assess the skills of each team member and position him or her for maximum value and production. Only then can you identify strengths and weaknesses and position each of them in the best possible position to contribute to the team performance.

You’ll want to take a look at things like:

  • Output
  • KPIs
  • Conflicts
  • Collaboration
  • Turnover
  • Wants and needs
  • Beliefs and behaviors
  • Capacity
  • Capabilities
  • Empowerment levels

Intangible KPIs

Other performance indicators are more easily missed because they don’t show up as numbers or percentages. But oh, do they matter! They are intangible so far as they are the performance indicators of healthy culture, problem-solving, and the relationship between team members. The four intangible KPIs I like to look at first are:

Trust. Trust is the currency of leadership. It starts when your team can trust you and you can trust your team. On the other hand, mistrust creates isolation. Isolation in a team environment always leads to disaster.

So, ask yourself:

  • Does my team trust me? Do I trust my team?
  • Do external customers trust us?
  • Do other departments within the organization trust us?
  • Do I know what my team can and can’t do—and how to grow where we are lacking?

Competence. Trust can only take you so far when you’ve got a competence problem. As an InSPIRED leader, you have a responsibility to create and guide a competent team. That means you’ve got to understand your team’s core competencies:

  • What is it that your department does?
  • What are the critical deliverables?
  • What are the critical roles?
  • Within the critical roles, what does competency look like?

Communication. All communication is not created equal. Many conversations among/to team members technically use all the right information—but they’re still not communicating. They’re just transmitting. Communication means not only that transmission has occurred, but also that recipients have received the information—and they know what to do with it.

Commitment. We all start with some level of competence, but knowledge in any industry has to be learned. Give me a person who has some level of competence, but is trustworthy with a heart full of commitment—and I can turn that person into a vital and integrated member of the team. You will gain competence every day if your heart is committed.

Becoming a Master Navigator

Together these KPIs make up your team compass. Most leaders focus on the tangibles, but the secret to finding true north is understanding both the measurable performance indicators and the abstract characteristics that set the context and culture for everything you output.
Keep them in your pocket at all times, and it won’t matter where you get dropped—if you can evaluate where your team is now, you can strategize how to get them anywhere.

The Secret to Enjoying a Missional Team Mindset

Unlocking Your Why to Engage with Passion

Here’s a vital question for organizational leaders to ask: Are you still on track together, or at some point did everyone get distracted from the core mission, vision, values, and purpose?

Family businesses can be beautiful instances of hard work creating something out of nothing.

They also can be prime examples of what happens when your why gets lost over time.

Grandparents carve a business out of the dirt with blood, sweat, and tears. At some point, the business gets handed off to the kids. When the second generation takes over the business, they know the passion Mom and Dad put into it, so they pour themselves into it.

But, more often than not, the grandkids will put that business in the ditch. Why? Because they didn’t share the purpose and passion or see the price paid by that first generation. They don’t share the passion, but they enjoy the privilege that has been their birthright.

Unfortunately, birthright doesn’t give passion and purpose. That’s why so many organizations, not just family businesses, flounder and lose their way over time. They lose their why.

Find the Why to Find Your Purpose

If you’re a leader of an organization that has lost its way, you must discover where you got off track and how to get back to that place of purpose. Purpose and passion produce the energy required to build an InSPIRED culture.

That’s why TOMS Shoes has been so successful. Yes, they’re selling shoes, but, more importantly, they have a social impact that drives them.

Purpose and passion are also why Michael Dell raised the money to buy his own company back. He was passionate about what he had created but knew he couldn’t make the moves he needed to protect that purpose and passion if the company was publicly traded. So, he raised the money to buy back Dell stock and make it private again. That’s what passion does.

People lose their shared sense of passion when they’ve lost their purpose. How then does an organization find or rediscover its purpose? How does it get intentional about ensuring everyone shares that purpose and passion?

  • Everyone in the organization needs to know why the organization was created.
  • What was the founding story?
  • What needs is the company serving now?
  • Could you name the why behind the how and the what?
  • Can you name the team’s core values?

Passion tears down silos and positions organizational culture to be fully integrated. When an organization isn’t driven by passion that comes from a clear and honorable purpose, it’s easy to get into a mess.

So the question is this: is your organization mission-minded or messy-minded? Do you have a mission-critical mindset in your organization or a silo-centric mindset?

3 Signatures of a Mission-Minded Team

Teams working with a mission in mind can’t help but stand out from the rest. How many of these do you see every day with your organization?

  1. With a mission-critical mindset, people will elevate mission, purpose, and passion above the need for egocentric wins. When you’re driven by a good purpose and sense of mission, you don’t have time to get involved in all the messiness—petty arguments, power trips, turf wars, and silo building. It’s not about who gets the credit; it’s about getting things done to advance the mission. They don’t look to place blame; they try to affect change. It’s amazing how much can get done when no one cares who gets the credit.
  2. When you have a strong sense of mission and focus on other people, you position yourself and your organization to function in a highly integrated fashion—fingers interwoven, arms interlocked, tearing down silos and moving forward together in pursuit of your shared mission. The question is simple: what is your purpose?
  3. Slay the dragon or rescue the princess: I believe the best teams need a dragon to slay or a princess to rescue. They can be galvanized against a common enemy (the dragon) or united toward a common goal (the princess to rescue). The former is more of a negative purpose in response to a threat, while the latter is a positive purpose in pursuit of an aspirational aim. Both can be effective in giving clear purpose and keeping teams out of the distracting messiness—but a word of warning about the dragon:

A team functioning in constant threat mode, motivated by fear of the next fire-breathing monster, can be damaged over the long-term.

Occasionally, organizations do face a real crisis that demands the slaying of a dragon. However, for long-term success, it’s far better for an organization to cast a compelling purpose—freeing the princess—and then pursue it with a shared sense of passion.

You must be realistic, of course, but always tie motivation to a positive purpose whenever possible in your leadership to bring out the most inspired performance.

Embrace the Adventure

Life is an adventure to be lived, not a crisis to be survived. Running toward something is always more empowering than just running away from something else. And that’s the beautiful thing about mission-minded leading.

When you know your mission and realize at a core level how important it is, you don’t get caught up in all the distractions, you can’t afford to take your marbles and go home when things don’t go your way, but most importantly you have in view something bigger than short-term obstacles.

Messy-minded leadership might work in a pinch—at the cost of team trust and long-term stability.

Mission-minded leadership, fueled by purpose and passion, will take you all the way.

Why 86% of Your Customers Will Stop Doing Business with You

How to Improve Service by Leveraging EQ  

Over 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated.

That’s right. Seven out of ten Americans say they are willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent service and with whom they feel connected.

One study reported that 86% of consumers in the US said they stopped doing business with a company because of a bad client experience. Of this percentage, 55% cited a company’s failure to resolve their problems in a timely manner.

There’s no getting around it. Service—either good or bad—is an emotional experience.

Your customer contracts with you in the hope that you can fulfill your promise, but hope deferred is problematic.

Anytime you sell something, you create an expectation in somebody’s mind. For that reason, you have to be intentional about the emotional experience that follows. And this emotional management piece is where most people and organizations fall short.

They hook the customer with the intention of meeting customer needs but give little thought to the comprehensive customer experience. Yet if 70% of a customer’s decision to purchase (or purchase again) is based on how the customer feels, you’d better have a plan in place to manage their emotional experience.

Which Comes First—Thinking or Feeling?

If you’re wired to be more rational and find yourself resisting all this talk of emotion, I get it.

But consider this: emotion fires before reason in the human brain, even for logical thinkers.

When you deliver good or bad service, an emotion fires in the customer’s brain before a thought. Often that emotion will trump whatever thoughts may follow. If seven out of ten customers are willing to spend more money with companies and organizations they feel connected to, then InSPIRED leaders must capitalize on that reality.

By the way, this emotional awareness doesn’t only apply to external customers, but to internal customers, as well. Yes, your peers, coworkers, direct reports, and colleagues have the choice to either buy what you’re saying or not.

Seven out of ten of your peers, coworkers, direct reports, and colleagues are willing to buy what you are selling, if—and this is a big if—they feel emotionally connected with you. That means you must give them respect and serve them well, too.

3 Questions to Check Your Service Experience

You can start evaluating your customer service experience with the three questions that follow:

  1. How healthy is service inside your organization right now?

If you find morale is low, it could be that your level of service is the reason. Rather than reflexively blame your team members, consider these tips to serve them well:

  • Don’t saturate them with change.
  • Use effective change management.
  • Provide effective project management.
  • Plan and communicate those plans.
  • Be consistent in attitude and action.
  • Listen to your direct reports who are probably closer to the customer needs.
  • Care for your team rather than insist they sprint endlessly.

2) How healthy is your team service to those outside your organization?

Of course, your customers will let you know if you aren’t serving them well. But you may need to be intentional about asking them before it’s too late.

Remember, there is a significant gap between the level of service most companies think they deliver and what customers think they receive.

Pay attention to what your customers tell you and use their feedback to architect a better, more intentional experience on an ongoing basis.

3) As an individual leader, where is your level of service to others right now?

It’s one thing to serve well organizationally, but every organization is made up of individuals, and you are one of those individuals.

This means you need to constantly check your own service level and commit to making continual improvements. How your external customers experience you and how your internal customers react to you will tell the story of your service and define your personal leadership brand.

Take Back Your Influence

Perhaps instead of “The customer is always right” we should say “The customer is always feeling.” Service truly is an emotional experience. And once the emotions have been affected, it’s difficult to change them through reason or explanation.

Perhaps instead of “The customer is always right” we should say “The customer is always feeling.” Service truly is an emotional experience. And once the emotions have been affected, it’s difficult to change them through reason or explanation.

This key is easy to miss, but so powerfully impacts every part of your leadership relations, including—but not limited to—other members of your team, employees and business partners.

You are always making an emotional impression with your service. And while you can’t control everyone’s feelings, you are responsible for the service that influences them.
Will it be positive or negative? You decide!