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How to Master Communication Skills for Great Leadership

Module 6 of Growth Faculty’s Emerging Leaders’ Program

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“Communicate well and your experience of leadership is extraordinary. Communicate badly and it can be a disaster.” – Kylee Stone 


Storytelling expert and executive coach Kylee Stone this week led Emerging Leaders Program participants in a masterclass on communication skills, specifically how to: 

-        Use your self-talk to be a more effective communicator

-        Align others on the vision

-        Actively listen

-        Build strong relationships

-        Become a storyteller

-        Build trust

-        Ignite inspiration and call forth new action.

-        Get a mentor to aid your own growth and development


Kylee says communication is one of the four ‘foundation of leadership’ pillars, which also comprise Purpose, Strategic Alignment, and Resilience.


What Makes a Leader Effective in Communication?


Kylee asked participants to reflect on their effectiveness in communication. She asked them to be clear on "What is the difference you want to make?" when communicating.

Leadership is all about influence, so how do you have the desired effect on others so that it leads to action that leads to effective results?


How Effective Are You At Communicating?


Being effective in communication is never a done deal, it takes constant attention, says Kylee. It comes in many forms, uses many mediums, and is at many levels: Speaking, Listening, Reading, Writing.

Kylee asked participants: “How effective are you at each?” and "What do you excel at?" Some people excel at 1:1. Others prefer communicating in a group.


What are the Types of Communication?


Intrapersonal Communication (self-talk) What you say to yourself influences your decision making and, so, before you can communicate with others the leadership needs to be clear to you. Clarity of thought leads to clarity of communication.

Interpersonal Communication (communication with others) How are others interpreting what you’re saying and is it a match for your intention? How others interpret your communication is essential to your effectiveness.

Dyad (meaning two people) How effective are you in a 1:1 situation? Are you able to effectively listen to another’s needs and reflect their needs in crafting the vision.

Team or Small Group Do you have the experience in being heard, do you feel comfortable in group dynamics, including conflict?

 Divisional or Organisational How effective are you at communicating the organisation’s vision at this scale?

Public and External This includes your reputation, your vision and how it’s communicated to clients and the public. How effective are you in communicating the vision and values to those outside the company.

Mass Communication (Media) You may be asked to use social media (for example) to speak to others outside of the organisation.

 

What is Important in Intrapersonal Communication?


According to The Five Dysfunctions of a Team author Patrick Lencioni, creating an environment of trust is the most important part of communication.

Kylee says building trust starts with trusting yourself, so intrapersonal communication (context or self-talk) includes your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, values, expectations, ideals, concerns, principles and decisions. In other words, the CONTEXT determines the content. 


Why is Context in Communication so Important?


You can’t see another person’s self-talk, or the context of their messaging. Context includes the environment you surround yourself with, where you spend your time, the places you go, and what media you consume.

Being able to read the context helps you navigate situations. How do you influence others when you have no idea what they’re dealing with?


What To Do Before You Have a Difficult Conversation


You might have an employee who is not performing; you need to have a difficult conversation with them about your concerns, or you need to give feedback to someone in the team and you have concerns about how they will respond.


Before you have that conversation, spend time to reflect on:

-        What beliefs, opinions or concerns do you have about the situation? Write down what you say to yourself about the situation. (The situation is...)

-        What beliefs, opinions or concerns do you have about the other person? Write down what you say to yourself about others. (They’re not, they’re too, they’re....)

-        What beliefs, opinions or concerns do you have about yourself? Write down what you say to yourself about yourself. (I’m not x, I’m too y, I’m...)


How Thoughts Become Actions


Your beliefs, opinions and concerns all determine the outcome. As Kylee points out, what you say to yourself determines what comes next. Your thoughts become your words, your words become actions, and your actions influence perceptions. You may need to breathe or take time to reframe your thoughts.


Also, before any difficult conversation, think about your organisation’s purpose. Write it down. Also, write down why building trust with people in your organisation is important. What opportunities do you now see (in your communication efforts) to achieve the purpose? 





Why is Listening So Important in Communication?


Dadirri video: “To know me is to breathe with me. To breathe with me is to listen deeply. To listen deeply is to connect. It’s a sound. The sound of deep calling to deep. Dadirri is the deep inner spring inside us.”)


The importance of listening cannot be overstated in becoming an great communicator. In interpersonal communications, you must include the other person in your conversation.


Kylee says that you can use the Aboriginal Dadirri practice to ask yourself: What is there to learn from the other person’s communication? What conversation could you now have? Are there more questions to be asked?


As Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Advice Trap and How to Work with (Almost) Anyone told Growth Faculty, active listening and asking questions are the keys to good communication. Let's look at


What is Key to Good Interpersonal Communication?


Kylee says this is not just about what you say, the real power in storytelling is happening in the listening, how the message is being received.


Storytelling in communication


Kylee recommends using the Pixar storytelling framework:

·       Once upon a time (set the stage) – Clarifying the purpose

·       Every day (status quo explained) – Clarifying the current situation

·       One day (a conflict arises) – Creating the desired outcomes

·       Because of that (the first outome) – identifying opportunities

·       And, because of that (a subsequent outcome) – taking action

·       Until finally (new status quo established) – acknowledgement


Example:

Mary is not hitting her targets, she has a lot going on, and she’s missing out on the financial rewards, then one day she meets with her manager, and the leader starts talking about the purpose and the vision, Mary has a lightbulb moment, she realises is that she isn’t emphasising the purpose (nor the client’s own needs), she develops a plan of action, and her conversations change. She starts seeing results, she begins to hit her targets, and success! She gets a trip to LA because she is now a Most Valuable Player in the organisation.


Questions to Frame a Story:

1.     A conversation for clarifying the purpose. Why are you here, what’s the purpose? (Align the team on the organisation’s vision, ignite inspiration, and call forth action.)

2.     A conversation for clarifying the current situation. Where are you now? What is working? What is not working?

3.     A conversation for creating the desired outcome. What is the organisation’s vision? What does success look like (when you are aligned)?

TIP: As you talk about the vision, imagine your team and yourself crossing the finish line as winners. Create the future as if the future has already happened. Feelings, emotions, thoughts, all belong here.

2.     A conversation for identifying opportunities. What actions do you need to take? What skills do you need to develop? What resources do you need?

3.     A conversation for action. You’re not going to tell someone what to do. You’re going to have a conversation to instigate action. Questions you could ask: What actions are you taking and by when? Are the actions scheduled? What meetings do you need to schedule?

4.     A conversation to acknowledge their efforts. Make sure you recognise and appreciate your employees/direct reports/colleagues. Inspire and mobilise by asking them: What do you want to be acknowledged / recognised for (strengths and values)? Do they have any final / unresolved questions? Is there anything else they want or need to say?


Steps to Get a Mentor to Improve Communication Skills


Kylee recommended participants get a mentor to improve their communication skills.

She suggests that they get clear on their goal and skills, make a list of potential candidates, rank the list against skills, make a decision and take action.

·       Who has achieved the success you’re looking to achieve or emulates the skills and qualities you admire?

·       Who do you admire in your industry, who has a specialised area of expertise, skills or knowledge you would love to learn from?


This is usually an area where the people and culture team can help you, or you can contact Kylee for more ideas around mentoring at at The Performance Code.


Summary:


To become a better communicator, develop a commitment to becoming a storyteller. When you’re inspired it’s hard not to inspire those around you. Have the conversation at the level of 1:1 and then the team. Start practising listening with purpose. It will give you the ability to see what’s happening to someone else, and how you can support them. Finally, get yourself a mentor. 


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The next session for Emerging Leaders Program participants is Design Your Habits for Success with Holly Ransom.


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