Communicate clearly and encourage two-way dialogueWhen I asked my staff for tips to give senior leaders on working with their staff, they came up with five.  Here’s number three:

Excellent team leaders communicate clearly and encourage two-way dialogue.

Even if you as the staff leader are quick and decisive, you need to take time to help your staff members process things and unpack their thinking. It’s not helpful to come down like you’ve heard from God on the mountain, announce where you want to go, and expect everyone to fall in line. By taking the time to process new directions and decisions with staff members, you’ll not only have increased buy-in and ownership but you’ll arrive at clearer thinking yourself.

Here’s one way I would do this with my staff. When we made an appointment, I’d tell them, “When we get together, I’d like to talk with you about X.” That could be what we were trying to accomplish, the best ways to go about something, or a possible change on the horizon. The staff members appreciated the heads up and it allowed them to pre-think the issue, so that when we got together they were prepared. Then I made sure to unpack their thinking first, asking clarifying questions to make sure I understood their perspective. I found that the staff members not only appreciated this approach, but it sharpened my own thinking as well.

Often we would isolate an issue or a question, then schedule a followup meeting for any further explanation that was necessary. Then we could make a tenative decision, then come back again to finalize our approach. Generally I found there was a “rule of 3”– it would take 3 cuts at a problem to arrive at a solution.

Taking the time to listen well, engage in two-way dialogue, and encourage feedback is more time-consuming, but yields vastly better results. People are committed to what they help develop. And excellent team leaders communicate clearly and encourage two-way dialogue.

Excellent team leaders communicate clearly and encourage two-way dialogue.

  • listen actively
  • provide reasonable access
  • engage in two-way dialogue to resolve problems early
  • encourage opinions, questions and constructive criticism

Action point:  What is one way you can encourage two-way dialogue among your team members?