Want to be a Better Leader? Become a Better Communicator.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
In the last week, how many times have you said or thought:
• “I told them but they don’t listen.”
We all get caught up in talking and simply assume the other person understands. After all, it’s clear to us. However, communication is only as effective as how the recipient receives it. Just because you spoke does not mean that communication has occurred. In the end, communication occurs ONLY when the message you send is received completely by others.
Communication is the lifeblood of your practice, and the ability to speak (and write) clearly and fluently is a leadership competency. It is demonstrated by taking a logical, structured approach, adapting to the needs of the situation and the nature of the audience. It also involves checking that the audience understands the message. This competency ensures strong two-way communication.
Think about it. When you treat patients, you communicate to influence the outcome and maximize success. If the ‘talk’ is technical and clinical without considering the ‘value proposition’ to the patient, your case conversion will be low. Being a good communicator requires two-way communication, asking questions about their motivation for the outcome and listening attentively so you can confirm what will drive acceptance. It might be related to finances. It could be a brighter smile or the elimination of pain. By knowing what the patient wants, you can tailor your communication to increase the likelihood that s/he will accept your recommendations.
It works the same way with your employees. If you want a productive and efficient dental team, you need two-way communication with them. From job expectations to timely feedback about performance standards, it is your responsibility to be sure employees understand what you want AND for you to know what they need from you.
Calm yourself and be fully present. Communication is complex and the difficulty is magnified when you are overwhelmed and cranky. Under stress, we shift into survival mode. As a result, you cannot tune in to what others are saying and doing. Two-way communication goes out the window. Slow down, take a deep breath and filter what you say. You are likely ambitious, bright and quick-thinking, but patients and employees may not process information as rapidly.
Determine the desired outcome. Are you intending to impart knowledge or advice? Looking for a compromise or attempting to gain agreement? Searching for a solution? Be purposeful about your objective in communicating because it will help you to influence the flow of the conversation.
Listen with your eyes. Observe non-verbal cues, your own and the other person. Research studies have found that less than 25% of communication is through words. Frustrated facial expressions, sarcastic voice tonality, fidgeting and deep sighs are important indications that two-way communication is not happening.
Empathize with the other person and listen for what is not said. Two-way communication often breaks down when there is fear, anger, frustration, and shame. Ask questions to clarify the meaning of words and the feelings involved. Validate what the other person might be experiencing and pause. Be silent. Listen for how the other person responds. What people hesitate to say is often the most critical point.
Ask for feedback. Make sure the other person clearly understands what you are trying to say. Even if you think you have an agreement, invite input, thoughts and opinions. This information will help you and also show the other person that you value them.
Establish follow-up. Confirm actions that will be taken. For patients, schedule the next appointment. For employees, clarify responsibilities and set deadlines. When it is applicable, put agreements into written form so it is formal and concrete.
Be more conscious and intentional with your communication. Observe when you are at your best, and in what situations you are at your worst. As the practice leader you have a big impact on others. Remember that the adjustments you make in your communication are for YOUR benefit – your goal is to have a more efficient and productive practice.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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