The Leader’s Medium of Influence

September 2, 2011

Effective Communication, Leadership

Influence Equals Leadership…

Leadership can be defined by the influence we have over others.  Communication is the means or the medium of that influence.  Communicating effectively has always been troublesome for leaders.  In the old days, communication was limited by time and distance.  Leaders relied on messages carried by foot or horseback.  Technology has evolved to address these issues.  Time and distance are no longer impediments to communication.  Rather it is the vast array of communication channels available and the foundational knowledge necessary to use each of them successfully.

The Measure of Success

Successful communication has in many ways been made more difficult  by improved technology.  Communication is successful only when the receiver understands the intended message.  Sheer volume or speed of communication has no bearing on understanding.  In fact, the greater the amount of information sent, the more complex the task of verifying understanding becomes.  Many times we fail to consider if our messages have been understood.  Too often the meaning we intend to convey is so clear in our minds we can’t imagine that it could be misconstrued or misunderstood.  This is a fatal mistake for leadership effectiveness.

Plan for Success

Communication is not a by-product of other leadership processes.  It is the leadership process.  Your plan to communicate your message is every bit as important as planning every other aspect of your operations.  As Stephen Covey reminds us in his ‘Seven Habits‘, “begin with the end in mind”.  Every time you initiate a formal communication you do so with a purpose.  What is the Mission of your communication?  With that Mission (end) in mind, does your communication convey the message you intend?  You have only just begun when you believe that the communication meets your purpose.  The true standard is if the recipient receives the message you think you are sending.

If you have the time and ability, have someone else look at your communication to see if they receive the message you are trying to convey.  If there is agreement that the message is effectively expressed then fire away – with the knowledge that there may still be problems.  You need to plan for checking understanding in your wider audience.  This can be accomplished by having people return your message in their words.  Doing some management by walking around and talking with your folks can be helpful.  Looking at operations to see how your communication has been applied is another means of checking understanding.  Allowing people to ask questions can be useful but cannot serve as the only way to check understanding.  People may feel that they got the message and not ask questions.  Others may feel that asking questions gives a negative impression of them.  Allowing others to ask questions is too passive.  You need to actively check for understanding.

Your effectiveness as a leader depends on your success as a communicator.  Communication is determined by what is received – NOT by what you thought you sent.

Please comment: What ways have you found to effectively check communication?
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  1. Technology Communication | Information Technology - September 5, 2011

    […] you have the time and ability, have someone else look at your Communication to see if they receive the message you are trying to convey. If there is agreement that the message […]

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