I sighed deeply. It was going to be yet another difficult morning, with endless complaints about the manner in which Flo treated the students and colleagues. I stepped out into the hallway and gasped at the long line of people trailing around the building and all the way to my door. “Anyone who does not have any story about Flo can come to the front of the line,” I said loudly. “For the rest of you, just know that I am meeting with her now, so just go back to your work or study. You will be contacted.”

I walked stepped back into my office, shut the door firmly, and turned to face an angry Flo. “You are too soft on them. They think that they can get past me with excuses, which they never will!” I looked at Flo calmly, and after a long stare into each other’s eyes, she glanced down. “Flo, help me understand this,” I asked quietly. ”Were you following the normal schedule while allocating work last week?”

“Of course!” exclaimed Flo defensively, “No more, no less!”.

“Flo, just hold on. You know that I left you in charge because I trust you to get work done well. Would you care to explain, then, why the complaints?” I asked quietly.

Flo looked down at her hands and said fretfully, “They don’t listen”.

“Don’t worry Flo,” I smiled, “Its just about communication, lets try and make it work.”

That morning, I gave Flo some important but very simple points to note, which I am sharing with you.

  1. What is the information that you wish to communicate. Be clear about what the information is. Is it generalized, or could it be broken down into specifics that are easily taken up by individual members? Often team members may already know the basics, but need to understand clearly what their role is. This therefor means that you are able to see where the team is, and where you wish them to be. Now just stay on topic!
  2. Why do you wish to communicate it: Its important that both you and the person you are communicating with understand the reason behind a desired action. This is when the overall picture should come into focus, and then each team member get more detailed information about why his or her input is required. An answer like. “because Madam said so” or “Because its your job” is often met with resistance.
  3. To whom do you wish to communicate the information: When speaking to individuals, try to remember that people are not all the same. Much depends on their character and attitude. Since they are people you work with daily, you sometimes make assumptions about them that may not be true. Put on imaginary spectacles and really try to study and understand where each person is coming from, what are his/her outlook and culture, and therefore how he/she react to the information that you wish to share. Be an active listener, take time to understand the issues that your team member brings up, it will help you gauge how far he/she actually understood what you were communicating.
  4. How do you wish to communicate it: try to stay on even ground, and ensure that what you are passing on is being understood clearly. Talk in a manner and language that can be understood, and be sure that you have put the steps together correctly, and not mixed up. If an argument ensues, try not to have the last word. Perhaps it’s not the right moment: give it a little time or simple change the focus to something of interest to the person and then get back to the subject again. And remember to thank each person!

It’s important at all times, that you speak in a calm manner. Flo is a fast speaker with a high voice that quickly shakes under pressure. I got her to practice speaking in an even tone, calmly and quietly. Then we worked on how to animate her voice, to encourage and energize. And most of all, to show staff that she appreciates their input.

Working with Flo was a joy, mainly because she loved her job, and all she needed to do is to focus on sharing her enthusiasm, rather that argue with other staff. I’m confident that Flo will make a great leader, as she builds her skills for communication.

If you wish to learn more about becoming a stronger leader, or exchange views, please write a comment below