Do You Communicate or Duck?

Whether people make the effort to communicate fully, or whether they duck the subject or person/people has never been more important or noticeable than it is right now.  Granted, communication and its intricacies is my passion – there is little I love more than hearing or seeing the “light” of understanding going on in someone’s voice or face; than two team members finding common ground they didn’t realise they had; than renewed and streamlined energy being directed towards common goals.  Where we stand as a world, as communities, as teams, as relationships and friendships as a consequence of what 2020 has brought so far, requires that we think even more clearly about putting effort into, and prioritising communication.

2020 is becoming a phrase within itself.  When something is perceived as going off the rails and becoming entirely unpredictable, it’s now described as “going 2020”…and we’re only half way through the year.  It’s not surprising that everyone is seeking control of their lives, and have become far more sensitive about the information they take in from various sources.  Priorities have shifted, and crisis has a way of stripping away all the falsities and focusing loud and clear on what’s truly important to you.

For these reasons, our “standards” have risen.  What we want for ourselves.  What we neeeeeeed for ourselves.  What we want for our families, for our businesses, for our countries.  What we’re prepared to tolerate has tightened, even as the world is shaking and crumbling around us.  What we deem to be valuable has shifted, and everything is being reassessed as to whether it’s necessary or worth your hard earned acquisition.  We’ve reassessed the news we take in and are prepared to involve ourselves in.  We’ve reassessed our opinions and standpoints on a myriad of subjects from vaccination, to who controls the world and why; from where we stand on human rights and dignities, to who we’re able to fully offer our friendship to and who we need to leave less space for.

In a world like this, he who communicates fully with value, compassion, authenticity and integrity, is king!  The whole world is crying out for help to evaluate our new normal.  To know that something is not only still standing, but meeting our new requirements for value and steadiness.

You’ve heard me mention the aviation axion “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate” before.  As pilots, this is our go-to when we find ourselves in a situation we need to gain stability in.  Focus on flying the aircraft so that it doesn’t get away from you whilst you’re fixated on the problem at hand.  Then decide where you need to go.  And lastly, communicate to whomever needs to know about that. 

Over the past months, there have been times when we’ve just had to put our heads down and “fly the aircraft”.  Just do what we know how to do before anything else gets away from us, or before our tolerance for change was exceeded.  We’ve also come through various different versions of asking ourselves, our families, our teams (and anyone else we decided to take information in from) where to next?  Where ARE we going?  And if the world doesn’t know, then where do I/we need to go next?

That has been more thinking in a shorter time and to a deeper level than many are used to doing in years.  It’s been traumatic for some.  Exhausting for others.  Enlightening for still more people.

At some stage of the game, we all need to make the decision to communicate our intentions though.  To communicate about what we’ve changed, what we’ve learned, where we’ve decided to aim at, who we’ve become.  If we don’t communicate, it’s like remaining on autopilot instead of actually taking the controls and committing to an action. 

John W. Gardner said, “If I had to name a single all-purpose instrument of leadership, it would be communication.”  He (she) who is willing to actually say the thing out loud, to express an opinion, a value system and a direction, will always be the one that others turn to and follow – especially in times of uncertainty.  Whether they follow you (or continue to follow you) is down to the authenticity and integrity of what you communicate though, because people need to be able to constantly assess whether what they are taking in lines up with their own value system.  If it does, you’re good to go.  As soon as it doesn’t, they’ll peel off and follow a new direction (at best), or stay and meddle in yours (at worst).

John C. Maxwell said “If you’re familiar with my books on leadership, you’ll know that I believe everything rises and falls on leadership.  What I haven’t mentioned before is that leadership rises and falls on communication.  You must be able to communicate to lead others effectively.”

He further stipulates that effective communication has three main characteristics.  It is CONSISTENT.  It is CLEAR.  And it is COURTEOUS.  It sets the tone for how those around you will communicate; whether that’s within a team itself, or within your greater environment – each of us sends a ripple out that encourages others to communicate in a like manner to the one we choose.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my moments of “less clarity” over the past few months; one or two of which have resulted in less desirable methods of communication.  I, for one, don’t need telling that the ripples I communicate have a direct impact on what I receive in return and on what I put into action.  We have choice about the ripples we’d like to put out there.  We have choice about the results we’d like to create and what we can see our people, teams and communities need from us.

Rather than ducking, which many are choosing to do at present, let’s try and open ourselves up to committing to consistently clear and authentic communication.  I’m learning more and more that vulnerability (the kind it takes to communicate fully) is an incredibly powerful connector.  When one person is prepared to open themselves up to fuller communication, others almost feel relief in doing so themselves.

We all need a little light at the moment.  We all need input to reassess where we want to aim at and what it will take to get us there.  We do that by listening to the opinions of others and observing what’s happening around us and then choosing what lines up with us (and our values) and what doesn’t.  Interaction fuels action.  Let’s make sure we choose how we interact responsibly.  And let’s understand that leaders don’t duck; they communicate.  Openly.  Consistently.  Authentically.

by Christen Killick

July 13th, 2020

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