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Leadership in sport and development: C for communication

Copyrights: Flickr: gfpeck

Leadership in sport and development: C for communication

“Wise men speak because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something” - Plato

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 studying. You will be contacted.”

I 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 this 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?”

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

Don’t worry Flo,” I smiled, “It’s just about communication. Let’s try to make it work.”

That morning, I gave Flo some important but simple points:

  1. What is the information that you wish to communicate? Be clear about that. Is it general, or could it be broken down into specifics that are easily taken up? Often team members already know the basics but need to clearly understand what their role is. This means that you can see where the team is, and where you want them to be. Now just stay on topic!
  2. Why do you wish to communicate it? It’s important that both you and the person you are communicating with understand the reason behind a desired action. The overall picture should come into focus. Each team member gets more detailed information about why his or her input is required. An answer like “because Madam said so” or “because it’s your job” is often met with resistance.
  3. To whom do you wish to communicate the information? 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 his/her outlook and culture are, and how he/she reacts to the information that you want 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 understood you.
  4. How do you wish to communicate it? Try to stay on even ground, and ensure that you talk in a way that is understood clearly. Be sure that you have put the steps together correctly. If an argument ensues, try not to have the last word. Perhaps it’s not the right moment: give it a little time or simply 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 to speak calmly at all times. Flo is a fast speaker with a high voice that 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 energise. 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 was focus on sharing her enthusiasm, rather than arguing with other staff. I’m confident that Flo will make a great leader.

Twitter: @lizodera1



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Tuesday, August 15, 2017 - 13:17