Ever met a psychic Husky?

Mush! Hike! Gee, Haw. Line out. Pick it up. Whoa. On By. Come.

Simple. Direct. Actionable.

When it comes to directing the team and leading them toward an actionable result, we cannot mince words, make veiled references, or throw out cloudy innuendoes and hope they get it. I haven’t seen or heard of any Husky that has claimed to be psychic!

For years, my communication weakness was to suggest a course of action that I, actually, wanted implemented and needed implemented quickly for the sake of the company. When the team failed to act, failed to make course correction quickly enough I moved in to more of a command and control mode. Neither extreme works well and the combination of the two is certainly not recommended!

Here’s what I was dealing with – I had been under an extreme leader – one that communicated harshly, stifled creativity, and used emotional outbursts and anger as “management” techniques. Being under that type of “Musher”, I quickly went to the other side and made the communication more relational, less threatening – but at the cost of productivity. Reduction in productivity and effectiveness created relational problems from both sides. I was wondering why I had people that didn’t “Get it” and my people were wondering why I couldn’t say what I meant the first time!

What I learned was to become more clear, more focused, more purposeful and intentional on the front end. I was operating in what has now become one of the ‘Mantras’ I use in my sessions, “Frustration is a function of expectation.” Have the right expectations, communication those expectations, ensure crystal clarity, next steps…”Who does What by When” methodology and we lessen frustration, increase productivity, AND maintain great relationships. Clarity excels accomplishment.

The team has running in their DNA. If the team is not directed with clarity on where to run, we can’t be surprised or frustrated as leaders when we don’t reach the right destination. If we’re not clear about the timing and accountability piece, then we won’t reach the right checkpoint in the right timeframe and our race position slips.

In our sessions, we work the clients to adopt their “Language” where everyone knows when ‘Gee’ is said by the leader or another team mate, it means to go to the right. When someone says, “I need to have an accountability conversation with you” that doesn’t mean they are trying to catch you doing something wrong. They are clueing you in that we are in this team together and in order for us to have the right outcome, we MUST hold each other accountable.

Implementing cultural buzz words develops the code where the offense can be reduced for the sake of the Burled Arch (the mission). These words are reinforced to mean the same thing every time. They are not to be used as weapons or daggers but as clarification points that reduce uneasy, emotional pain points. “Can we have this discussion offline?” = I don’t want to disagree with you in public. “Can you let me in on your lens?” = I know we all perceive things differently, what is your perception of what I said, or the situation, etc. “I’m not good being Wheel Dog” = the conversation is revealing too much for my comfort level or more playfully stated, “Keep the baggage on the sled”.

Every entity or team has their own lingo and ‘culture’. How healthy is your team’s communiqué? Where does it need work?

Remember: It’s your sled, your team – you set the tone! Make sure it is intentional, clear, AND relational.

Has your communication ever led you off a cliff?

Last week we talked about Influence and used the acronym BARK. I think we’ll use that as a segway to talk about the communication culture with the team.

It’s almost stereotypical to talk about barking at each other. A tremendous number of organizations have severe communications issues within their teams, as well as, outside their teams to their customers, vendors, and investors. Millions of dollars are spent every year on trying to help people learn how to communicate and how to communicate more effectively.

When communication is done well, it can lead the team to victory and when it is dysfunctional, it can lead your team off a cliff or down any number of ravines!

Communication is the greatest asset a corporate culture can develop, to gain the highest rate of return. When people can communicate with clarity, goals are achieved easily, and swift. When employees have an open understanding of the way others think and feel, they are able to manage conflict, overcome challenges, and communicate solutions quickly.

Those who can communicate well can change the world. (and often do!) Those who learn to shape their message, effectively transfer that message and motivate others to action often rise to the position of leadership within an organization. They become the team’s Musher!

Mushers that have difficulty communicating tend to lose support for existing initiatives, rarely gain support for new initiatives, and are left with only their title or positional power to try to force engagement from their team.

In dog sled mushing, you may be surprised to learn, they do not use whips or reigns. In order to control, motivate, correct, adjust, etc., the leader must verbally communicate that to the team. Mushing has its’ own language and it contains about 10 to 20 words – that’s it. The simplicity of the language is vital in order to communicate to the team, communicate with speed and precision, and get the team to act on that communication.

Act on the communication. Isn’t that the goal of our communication? Action.

For a good amount of the time I would agree. However, there are times when our communication is there to simply inform, maintain team continuity, or to create or maintain connectedness. Most times, communication effectiveness increases where there is connectedness and relationship. As action oriented as most of us are, we can’t forget that the ACTION of relationship development is one of the first keys to effectively transferring communication into action.

Just like the Iditarod has different challenges on different parts of the trail – our business communication trail has differing landscapes. How we navigate each of those affects our race success.

Knowing that all leaders have strengths and weaknesses; can we take a minute and look at our business race? Where on the trail are you strong in communication and where are you, presently, weak?

Sections on the communication trail are: one-on-one conversations, one-to-many conversations, meetings, vision casting, presentations, confrontation, demonstration, delegation, accountability,…. And the list goes on. It is, truly, a long trail.

Take a minute today and some time the rest of the week and think about your communication strengths and weaknesses. Write it down and let’s develop a game plan to become masters at communicating in all areas of life and business.