Do your words match your actions? Are you “being the message?” How you communicate with others (and yourself) is key when it comes to being a conscious leader. This week Akua, an executive and leadership coach, talks about the importance of reflecting on your communication style and aligning what you say with what you value.
Akua dives into what she means by “being the message,” a popular mantra among coaches and advisors. She also explains the three main communication styles, as well as three lessons around communicating as a leader, cultivating our awareness around how to engage while keeping in mind the culture in which we find ourselves.
How we communicate or come across is often overlooked, but being self-aware about our communication style and how it is perceived allows more effective engagement and, ultimately, influences our team.
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What's Covered in this Episode About Communication Styles
- Learn the importance of body language and visual cues and how they can affect others’ perceptions.
- Akua defines the three main communication styles and reveals the most effective communication style for conscious leaders.
- Discover how to overcome someone’s preconceived notions of you and your abilities based on superficial traits like accent or gender.
- A leader’s communication style can vary based on the environment and workplace (or national) culture.
Quotes from this Episode of Open Door Conversations
Mentioned in Being the Message & Communication
Get to Know the Host of the Open Door Conversations Podcast
Learn more about your host, Akua Nyame-Mensah.
Akua is a certified executive and leadership coach, recognized learning and organizational development facilitator, speaker, and former startup executive.
Since 2018, she has had the opportunity to partner with amazing organizations, from high-growth startups to multinational brands all around the world, to maximize people, performance, and profit. Outside of her coaching and corporate speaking engagements, she is a regular mentor, coach, and judge for various entrepreneurship-focused organizations.
Stay in touch with Akua Nyame-Mensah, Leadership & Culture Advisor:
Here’s the transcript for episode 78 about Being the Message and Communication
NOTE: Please excuse any errors in this transcript; it was created using an AI tool. Akua Nyame-Mensah 00:00 No one really teaches you how to communicate. You usually learn the hard way that you've hurt someone's feelings that something was unclear what's that old saying? Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. It's a lie. Hello and welcome to the open door conversations podcast. My name is Akua Nyame-Mensah. I also respond to Aqua and Akua. I'm a certified executive and leadership coach recognised learning and organisational development facilitator, speaker and former startup executive. And I am so excited because this year I'm celebrating five years of working for myself five years of supporting leaders. And I am so grateful because I've had the opportunity to partner with amazing organisations, from hydro startups to multinational brands all around the world. In 2022. Alone, I serve over 600 Yes, over 600 leaders around the world. And in this podcast, you will have the opportunity to learn my three step leadership framework. I actually break it down in Episode 71. I use this framework with my high achieving and entrepreneurial minded clients that are juggling a million responsibilities so they can easily build wealth. This three step framework is going to teach you how to leverage your innate personality to learn how to prioritise and maximise not just your time, but also your money. You don't have to work harder or turn into someone else. To get more done. Let's tune into this week's episode. Hello, and welcome to this week's open door conversations podcast episode. We are not perfect, we don't always get it right, but how we communicate with others, and how we even communicate with ourselves is key. And conscious leaders take that into consideration and build their awareness around how they communicate. But most importantly, take some time not all the time in the world, but take some time to see if their communication had the intended impact and what their perspective or perception of that communication is. Please keep in mind that I am not suggesting that you get obsessed with how everyone perceives you. But it is important to consider and take some time to think how what you share and what you communicate can land to others. There are so many different things I could have communicated or included in this episode. But because I tried to make them under 30 minutes, I wanted to focus on something simple, but something that we tend to overlook. I'm in the middle of working on a communication programme for a team. And this is actually one of the elements I think it's important to start with. I think it's important to start with being the message is something that I hear other coaches consultants, advisors say quite a bit. And I think it's important, it forces you to reflect on whether or not your words match your actions that you say what you value and your behaviours match that or show that that you are consistent. What can this actually look like in practice, that you engage with all your team members if you say your team is important that if you truly value innovation, that you don't yell at employees who are trying new things. And maybe those new things don't go the way you want them to that you remember that your actions speak louder than words many times being the message includes keeping in mind that your body language can convey a lot more than your words. And recognising that body language, how you show up, the gestures you use can be very context specific. And depending on the culture of your organisation, or even country you find yourself can pose a problem or detract from your message. And unfortunately, but this is something that we definitely need to keep in mind as well. How you are physically perceived can also have an impact on how others engage with you, and how your message lands. You can't control all of it. But being the message and thinking about the visual cues, and physical way in which you show up can be incredibly important. Let's move on to another element. I think that's important to keep in mind. And that is your generalised communication style. This is something that also includes not just your words, but also your body language. And it's super simple. You can find this honestly online anywhere. But I think it's important to remind ourselves of this. And as you continue to build out your SOPs, connect with others and share what they need to keep in mind that This is also something that you should cultivate your awareness around. If you're listening to this and you're like, I know how I come across, I know how I'm being perceived, just humour me, you might be surprised at how many times I see some of these approaches to communicating, and how many times these approaches to communicating don't lead to the results that leaders want. If you Google communication styles, you'll typically see articles for three or four basic generalised styles, I'm going to focus on three passive, aggressive, and where we typically want to spend most of our time assertive. The last, of course, would be passive aggressive, you can check out the resource I added in the show notes if you want a definition for that I didn't think he was really relevant to spend a lot of time on. But if you are curious, and you want to have a better understanding of what that might look like, you can feel free to take a look at that resource. I really liked the definition I found on the University of Kentucky's website because it reminds us that we are just habits and that a lot of how we show up is based on what we see others do. So let's jump into some quick definitions on these generalised communication styles of passive, aggressive, and most importantly, where you should spend most of your energy assertive. The passive approach to communicating is typically found in individuals that have developed a pattern habit routines around not truly expressing their feelings, emotions, opinions, right? They're not used to having their needs met. And the idea is that rather than actually being direct about what they need, they've learned to hold back, they've learned not to show others what they need or want. And this can typically lead to a lot of issues down the line, right? This can lead to actually some very aggressive behaviour, or outbursts down the line. Does anyone come to mind when I use that quick definition? Another question you can ask yourself is, when do you find your most passive? Are there particular times of the year are the specific conversations around certain types of people, if you're not sure what passive communication could look like? Let me give you some examples. passive communication, especially within the workplace can look like speaking on behalf of others, or groups that maybe aren't present, or haven't had the opportunity to actually contribute. But you're speaking as if you've had a conversation, you've all agreed to something. This can also look like you actually being silent on a topic or issue that's really important to you, but you don't actually share the most common type of passive approaches to communication include gossiping. And that's really where you're sort of talking behind the backs of those that you actually should be directly confronting, or having a true conversation with passive communication can really be an issue when you're trying to build an engaged and mobilise team. And creating a safe space where everyone feels comfortable contributing can really go a long way to make sure that issues are actually properly addressed. And people are actually engaging so that there is innovation, and people can actually get things done. Once again, I've added a resource in the show notes that actually we'll share some key phrases that might be used by you or used by members of your team. So cultivating your awareness around what those words could look like, in addition to the behaviours that go along with passive communication can be incredibly helpful. Let's talk about the second generalised communication approach that is aggressive. This is where someone does actually communicate their feelings, opinions, emotions, and they also are more likely to actually share what they want need, but the way in which they do it impacts others negatively the way in which they do it is typically more abusive, and typically impedes on the rights of others. What can this actually look like? This can look like personal attacks. So someone who's giving feedback, but they're talking about the character or personality of someone as opposed to the content, actually having an emotional outburst, or ultimatums where they're demanding that someone show up in a specific way. And probably most importantly, and what really probably happens in the workplace a lot, not listening, being unwilling to listen to other perspectives, or consider other perspectives. Once again, does anyone come to mind as you reflect on this approach to communication? When do you find that you end up being a bit more aggressive? Why do you think that's the case? And is there anything that you can do to shift your approach anything that would be helpful to allow you to process or regulate yourself so you don't come across in an aggressive manner? So let's get to the last communication style that I want. To share within this podcast episode, and that is assertive, and this is really where we want to spend the majority of our time. This is where someone feels comfortable sharing their opinions, their feelings, right the things they need, and they advocate for themselves without impacting others negatively. So they do it in a way where they're confident, it's direct, it's clear, right? And they're respectful of others. This honestly might look a little different in every organisation. And that's a key thing to keep in mind, because different organisations have different cultures, different ways in which things are done. But the core part of it is that hopefully, if someone's asserting themselves, they are not infringing on other people's values, right. They're not impacting other people negatively three key elements. So thinking about assertive communication, that person has an opinion, we all have opinions, we actually all have our own versions of reality, they clearly communicate it. And they're open to and listen to other people's perspective. So once again, where do you find yourself being effectively assertive? What do you think you can do to move towards being more assertive or creating an environment where other people feel comfortable being more assertive. This is where conscious leaders play. This is where conscious leaders need to spend a lot of their time and energy and really reflect on what they can do to create an environment where people feel comfortable, they have the psychological safety, to share their opinions to communicate those opinions, and also are open to listening to the opinions and perspectives of others. To close this out, I wanted to share or at least add this additional piece I found on Princeton's website around communication, I will also be sharing three lessons around communicating as a leader. And I think it's important to keep these elements in mind, being assertive may not be effective when interacting with individuals that threaten your personal safety, it's important to keep the context in mind. Another thing to keep in mind as we have this conversation, and we're continuing to cultivate our awareness around how we show up how we engage in the cultures we find ourselves in or the cultures we're trying to intentionally build is that people often misinterpret assertive behaviour as aggressive. So this is also something that's very gendered and also culture specific. So it's really important to reflect on whether or not someone sharing their opinion, clearly communicating it, and also being open to other opinions really lands with you. Because one, it just might be something you're not used to. So you're not sure of what it actually is happening. And then to it might be something that's different from the culture you tend to find yourself in. And so being assertive, right, this concept of asserting yourself appropriately might be something you have to reflect a little bit on, if you find that that's not something that you do, or you're within a culture that doesn't necessarily value it. Next, I wanted to share some lessons. Just a quick review of what we've gone over so far. In this episode. First, we talked about the importance of being the message, right? How there are all these visual and physical cues that we give off, there's actually research out there that shows that the majority of our communication is actually nonverbal. So understanding whether or not you're being consistent with what you're giving off physically, right, those visual cues and what you're saying, right, and that you're being consistent. All that matches will really help you as a leader, right, and allow you to really step up and become that conscious leader. The second thing that we talked through, were those three basic generalised communication styles that we all should keep in mind. There are of course, behaviours and approaches that are related to each one of those generalised styles. The key thing to keep in mind is you can fall into one of those styles at any point in time, it's really just going to depend on how you feel and where you are. To close this off. Let's get back to those lessons. When I reflect on my leadership journey and the types of challenges my clients work with me on related to communicating, three main lessons come to mind the first and I think this is so important to keep in mind as a leader because it can be very hurtful when you learn what you've shared hasn't landed. But the first one here is that what you will share will not always land the way you want it to your intention can be very different from the impact and the perception of it. These three things are not directly correlated, the way in which you share things can be interpreted in so many different ways. So please keep that in mind as you share and as you try to get more effective and try to get more direct in your communication approach. The second thing is Keeping in mind, and this really relates to that first element that I've shared around being the message. The second thing to keep in mind is that people have preconceived notions of who you are, what you're going to say, and what you're capable of based on all these superficial traits, based on your accent, perceived gender, right, and there is nothing you can do about that. And it's also not your job to explain or justify. And most cases, it's important to keep in mind that there might be a context where that's necessary. But for the most part, it is not your job to go around and explain this write, as someone who sounds the way I do from the places I'm from, and living where I live. This is something I always try and remind myself and the example actually wrote down here and was going to share was that one of the reasons why I introduced myself the way I do, where I share that my name can be set in different ways that my parents are from two different places, is that I realised early on that people were so busy trying to place me and put me in a box, because that is what we do as human beings, that they were distracted and not listening to me. Right? They were trying to figure out who I was where I lived. And the reason why I knew this was that the first question I would typically get after doing a session was about my accent, and people wanted to confirm where I lived, right? They would ask me all these non relevant personal questions. So sometimes you do need to think about what are the ways in which you can present yourself to help eliminate some of these questions, because human beings have these questions. So as I mentioned before, you don't always have to justify or explain yourself, but if there's something that you're trying to do, and you want to be effective at it, and you realise there's something about how you show up physically, or superficially, because I do think accents are superficial, they have no impact on your intelligence, or what you're really sharing. That might be something that you keep in mind, that's something I was willing to compromise on. There's other things I'm not willing to compromise on. So for example, I do not code switch. So that's something that I'm not willing to do. But I'm happy to share that I have parents from two different countries, I live in different places. And I don't mind if my name is said differently. The third thing that I'd love to share or less than I think that's important to keep in mind, and I also remind myself of is that listening is the first step to being a better communicator and better leader, right? I'm sure a lot of what I'm sharing here is not a surprise, but it's really key. So asking yourself, what kind of listening are you doing, and a lot of overwhelmed firefighting, reluctant leaders that I work with are not listening to understand, empathise or even serve, they're listening to find fault, problem solve, but it's typically to problem solve in a way that's unsustainable, and micromanage it, right. So if you find yourself sort of jumping to problem solve, if you have, you know, team members that are coming to you, employees coming to you to ask for feedback, you might be doing the most, right and recognising that always poking holes in things, being negative, saying things aren't going to follow through or work out is not going to lead people to want to come to you. And ultimately, people are not going to want to work with you. So recognising if you find yourself within that sort of more negative thought pattern, that more negative approach to supporting your team, because that's really going to help you right, build the right space for people to feel comfortable sharing that they failed, or being open to trying new things. And if you find yourself jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, I would recommend that you think about asking clarifying questions to make sure that you've understood what's being shared before you share your perspective, or even paraphrasing. And that will give you a bit of space, a bit of breathing room to really be able to reflect or even support them, right with coming up with the solution themselves, right. So that's going to give them also time to process and digest the information shared and give you that opportunity as well. This is what's going to allow you ultimately to communicate better to listen, write more actively and give space and grace and recognise that people aren't always coming to you for the solution, they might just need you to listen. Alright, so I hope what I've shared today is thought provoking, right? And please keep in mind, these are also elements, things that you can consider when you're creating your SOPs, and communicating to others how to make them most of you, right. So learning about how you communicate how you tend to show up and the things that you can do to improve right will allow you to better connect and ultimately have more influence and impact because that's what we're trying to do as leaders. I hopefully will be putting together an episode on influence soon. If that some thing that you want to hear, please let me know. And as always, let me know what you think of the episode, especially if you found it helpful and stay safe and say, Thank you so much for listening to this week's episode, please share this episode with someone who can benefit from its contents. If you found this episode helpful, I want to ask you to leave a review. This makes it easier for other people to find my podcast and also allows me to bring on even bigger guests, and even more fascinating stories. Thank you so much for listening again, stay safe and stay sane