Episode 66 – Lockdown Leadership | Communication

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Across this 5-part podcast series, I chat with Becky Hammond from Isogo Strong and unpack some common leadership themes that we have seen stand out during this crisis. As we’ve coached and worked with leaders over the past several months, themes have emerged where the best leaders are thriving and implementing changes to successfully take their team and organisation forward. These themes include Grace & Kindness, Communication, Individualization, Clarity, and Selfcare.

In this episode, we focus on COMMUNICATION. The need for effective, timely and succinct communication has been highlighted through this crisis. The words we use, what we say and how we say it, how we listen, our energy, body language, gestures, all contribute to the messages we provide people.

We delve into individualization of communication and discuss examples of what some of the best leaders are doing. We share actionable steps that leaders can take to use communication to influence the culture and impact their team positively, especially in a crisis.

Key highlights include:

  • When we talk more frequently, for a shorter period of time, it builds alignment, understanding and speed of decision making. Do less, more frequently.
  • If you own your own stuff, it opens up the space for others to own theirs.
  • Great managers have the conversation sooner.
  • Focus on the facts – “In crisis management, be quick with the facts and slow with the blame” – Leonard Saffir

Actionable steps to take from this episode:

  • Individualize your communication with your team. How do they like being communicated with? Do they like recognition and praise? Start each conversation with genuine recognition for how they show up. If they need time to think about things, then give them a heads up about what the future meeting will be about. If they’re detail-oriented and need context, give them the background info the need on the topic.
  • Don’t rush – allow yourself the time to have the conversation.
  • Implement ‘team meetings’ at home with your family, especially if you are solely working from home.
  • Don’t schedule your meeting for 30 or 60 minutes; try 20 minutes, or 50. Give yourself time and allow some mental space between back-to-back meetings.
  • What is the best platform for the conversation you need to have? Email, phone, Zoom, text, something else?

These conversations with Becky are always valuable, she brings a wealth of knowledge and inspiration from the other side of the world. I hope you follow along with this series here on the podcast as we get into 4 more themes that have shined through the best leaders in this time of lockdown.

If you gained inspiration from this episode then you will love our program, Leaders Who Give a Damn, where we take these concepts even further.

In the next conversation of this series, we will be delving into the Individualization of Leadership.

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Becky Hammond  00:01

Hello, good morning. good afternoon, Murray. How are you today?


Murray Guest  00:06

I’m really good, Becky, thank you. It’s fresh morning here, winter, of course in the southern hemisphere, but I’m really appreciating the the coolness and I’m appreciating… Honestly, I’m really appreciating the sunrises each, each morning at the moment. And I’m loving starting my day chatting to you about leadership, something that we’re so passionate about. And so, tell me what are we getting into today?


Becky Hammond  00:29

It kind of sounds like a little bit like a game show. Right? Like, so what’s up next, right. Now, you know what this series we just, we one, you heard before, you might have caught that before it was about grace and kindness. And really what we’re talking about is about what are good leaders doing right now? And what has come out of this time of crisis? You know, we started asking ourselves, What are they doing? What did they do so well? And what did they learn maybe even the hard way during this crazy world crisis that that we see them carrying forward into what might end up being a new normal, or maybe uncertainty is the new normal. And so what works as a leader as we move into a time that that maybe feels just as uncertain, if not more practiced, at least at this point. And so the themes that we are talking about over these five podcasts are grace and kindness, which you can check in the last episode, communication, we’re talking about that today, individualization and flexibility, clarity, and taking care of self. So today, we are going to dive into this concept about communication. And communication is something that I think is, it’s an overused word, so maybe I would choose a different one. Or maybe we can define it in a way that really separates it from just like, okay, yeah, good communication is a good idea. What do we mean by communication, Murray?


Murray Guest  02:04

I think that’s a really good point can I just say, Becky, on communication. Over the years when I’ve been running workshops, and I have asked teams, what can we do better? And people say communication, and I go, Ugh. Because it’s like, it’s such a broad word. And it means I could ask 20 people to write down on a piece of paper in a room, what’s communication? I get 20 different answers. So you’re right, it means so much. It means so much. So I think that’s an important point that let’s be clear, when we say communication, what are we talking about, and also for people to think about what it means for them. The second thing, though, before we get into it, I just want to mention something. I’ve been running a leadership program with a team or a group of people at an organization this past couple of weeks. And the question I’ve been asking in every session is who wants things to go back to the exact same way they were? Before this all happened, before we were working from home, working in isolation? And I’ll say my quantitative analysis of these, you know, worked with 60 leaders in this group in the last two weeks, it’s been honestly like one or two people. It’s everyone wants it to, to change in some way, for it to stay changed with these new ways of working, there’s new flexibilities, there’s new communication processes happening. People don’t want it to go back to the way they were, they can see the value and the benefit. So I think that’s where these conversations are really important to actually take the time out and say, What is working? And how do we leverage that and keep that going?


Becky Hammond  03:46

Right, and not just fall back into the way we used to do things because we used to do them and when they were comfortable, and we knew how to do it that way, but rather really pushing yourself as a leader and as a team to say, you know, what might work better? And especially what might work better, because some things just won’t ever be the same?


Murray Guest  04:06

Hmm. I totally agree. And communication. Great question about when we say that, what do we mean, what are we talking about? So yes, there’s the word we use. There’s things that we say. But there’s also the the amount of listening we’re doing. So how much are we listening to each other, listening to our teams? And then is that the whole other part of our communication, which is the energy we bring, there’s the body language, there’s our hand gestures. There’s all those little messages that we provide people. I’ve got, quote, again, from someone that I love working with is, I can’t hear what you’re saying, because what you’re doing is so loud. So as much as we may be communicating by speaking something, it’s being lost through our behaviors as well. So the way we communicate is so much and of course with all the changes in our ways of working, a lot of the behavioral communication has been lost in zoom, and online meetings and things like that. So I think that’s something that we need to be mindful of then and to be honest, even tap into that even more to really watch and to really be focused in those in those meetings and conversations. So yeah. So communication, something which I know for the people I’ve been working with has been focused on, to see how that could be improved. And how that can be something which they take forward in the way they’re working back to whatever the new normal is. Yeah. So Becky, what’s been happening with some of the clients you’ve been working with? What have you been hearing about this?


Becky Hammond  05:45

It’s kind of interesting, because as you talk about, like, all the different aspects of communication, I also think about how it’s kind of important at every level, and in every space you occupy. And I think now more than ever, you know, we might have always said communication was important in our families and our work. But now we’re saying our families and our work might be together forever, or at least in new ways. And certainly they have been over the last several months. And so a couple different stories, conversations come to my mind about leaders who’ve been really effective. And communicating well, and having, sometimes that means having tough conversations, sometimes that means having the hard conversation, I think of a leader who they were running this really big event. And it didn’t go off. Well, from a technological standpoint, the end goal actually was better than they expected. So that was the silver lining. But when she was going back to talk to her team about what went wrong, on the tech side, there was there was some pretty big defensiveness, and she’s just kind of wondering like, Okay, how do I, how do I get the whole story. And as we were talking, I realized, if they don’t have this conversation, then trust is breaking down. And so she in the end, just said, in the end, she just asked for the straight story and said, I can back you up better to these other departments if I know exactly what happened, even if you are the one that was at fault, or you had some fault in this, you know, like, in general, most problems we have, every party has some fault. And what that did was it led to more trust, not less. So even though her leader that was working for her did have some like, ooh, I don’t know, that wasn’t really the best, you know, that wasn’t the best thing to do. So maybe it was a mistake, instead, build more trust, because they were able to have a conversation and really able to communicate about that particular thing. And so that’s one of the stories that stands out to me about the power of communication. And just the challenge of it. It’s not an easy thing to do as a leader.


Murray Guest  07:59

Yeah, I totally agree. And there’s lots of programs and literature out there about having courageous conversations. And I think if anyone wants to invest in having those conversations, you can check out some of that. And of course, we do talk about in the Leaders Who Give a Damn program, because having those conversations are what shapes the culture. And I think in the program, I might say something like every conversation is an opportunity to influence the culture. I think I say a number of times, I’m a big believer in it. And I think that’s something which we can’t lose sight of as leaders for every time we have those conversations, it’s going to influence the culture in some way. And that culture of trust that you just referenced, that that leaders generating and creating, through having those conversations and owning her part, I heard that as well. Owning her part of whatever happened is so important. There’s a quote, I want to share as well that I looked up in preparation for this one, this chat about communication, and it’s from Leonard Saffir, who’s a public relations executive. And what he says is, in crisis management, be quick with the facts and slow with the blame.


Becky Hammond  09:21

Plays so well back to our conversation about grace as well. Like there’s a pause there. There’s that breath if you’re practicing, taking that breath now to inhale grace and exhale grace to other people. You just pausing to take the facts and don’t just jump to conclusions.


Murray Guest  09:43

Yeah, and it’s something which you know, in the times of crisis that we start to realize how important communication is. And what I do hope is anyone that’s listening to this they actually take that timeout, take the pause to say okay, how has my communication adjusted through this process of working from home in different arrangements, and how’s it helping me be a better leader? And how can I keep that going forward? A simple process one of the teams that I’ve been working with was doing, they had a weekly meeting, which to be honest, wasn’t that effective. They felt like it could have been clear in the purpose, clear in the process that they were having are getting together. What was happening was, they would meet for, I think, was about an hour and a half, sometimes for a week. But they wouldn’t chat that often throughout the week, throughout the week, you know, every day, there might have some project meetings, but not that good effective alignment as a team. And since working from home, they’ve implemented a daily huddle, where every morning, every morning without fail, they’re on zoom. And they are connecting as a team, and not just about what the priorities are today, what do we need to deliver on, where we’re up to with some of our challenges and goals, and some of their internal customers which was a big focus for this team. But, how are we? And they actually have a measure through to five, of where’s our health level at? And actually share that, and they check in on that. And they talk about that. And they support each other. So I actually, luckily, at the moment, I’m working with that team, and they were talking about this. And I said, Okay, so who wants this to continue when you go back in the office? And everyone’s like, Yes, me, me, me, we have to keep doing this. The value of the alignment, the engagement, they’re feeling more connected. And they are talking the other day about the speed of agility. So with this communication increase, and here’s a thought, Becky, I’d love your perspective on this, I think every team needs to talk more frequently, more regularly. Because I think too often we’ve got these old processes where, Oh we’ll just talk about this in the meeting, you know, each week or each month, or whatever it is. But when we talk more frequently for a shorter period of time in effective meeting, it builds that alignment, builds the understanding and builds that speed of decision making.


Becky Hammond  12:24

Yeah, yeah, well, the phrase that comes to mind, and I don’t know if I just made this up, or if I heard this somewhere, so let’s just be honest about that. To me, in my mind, it says less more frequently, right? So like this team that was having hour and a half meetings, they’re not meeting any more, right, they’re meeting the exact same amount of time, if they’re meeting every day of the week for 15 minutes, yet, they feel more connected, they feel less bored, they feel more engaged with each other, they understand their team better. They, what I’m just hearing you say right now, are working together better as a team, which I assume also means like getting to their goals in a more effective manner as well. And so, yeah, I love that I, I think to be efficient, and be connecting with people and working towards goals. I mean, to me, that’s a dream as a leader.


Murray Guest  13:20

Yeah, yeah, high Achiever for Becky, they’re getting…


Becky Hammond  13:26

Hey, I put that connection in there for you and your relator. So.


Murray Guest  13:31

So something I think that you started to mention before, and I might have cut you off. So I do apologize. But that was my communication coming out. But what I think is something that has been highlighted here in the past couple of months is also the importance of communication at home. And what I’ve been sharing with some teams I’ve been working with is team meetings at home. And so we have team meetings at work, you know, what’s on our plate and what projects, but we need to have those at home as well. And Tammy and I have been having team meetings for some time. And we explore a whole range of things of you know, what’s in the calendar for the children, what’s on our calendar, who’s coming, who’s going, you know, who needs the bandwidth the most on the Wi Fi, whatever, who needs the quiet time in the house. So stop talking, you know, so we can do all that. But I think I’d like to know what you’re hearing as well about this need for the increase of communication and clarity at home as well.


Becky Hammond  14:37

Yeah, yeah, there’s one leader that brings to mind who actually has always worked from home so she runs her own business from home. But now all of a sudden she doesn’t have a nanny. She doesn’t have her kids in school. Her husband is a teacher, is now at home working as well. And one of the things I was just most impressed with by her is how they brought communication as their main tool for thriving during this time, they just said, Okay, we’re gonna, I mean, communicate about the same things that you’re talking about, like, Okay, I have this important call at this time, you know, as a video recorded call, we need, I need all the bandwidth, or I need the kids out of the house for these two hours or we’re going to have constant, you know, bickering in the background of all my, you know, all my recordings or of my coaching calls. And so I was just very impressed how she brought that to the forefront. You know, this is a person who had been married for a long time, they’ve been working together for a long time in terms of running their family. But it was the first time that they really had to, like you say, have a team meeting about what, what is it gonna be like to run and operate here. And, you know, I have to always bring it back to this big overarching theme of grace. Because as you communicate, you’re offering grace to each other, you’re giving each other opportunities to compromise and to give and to take a little bit and to know that it’s not going to be, it’s not easy for either one of you in this particular situation, yet, it’s, it’s a worthy thing to fight for that. That solid communication, everyone feels like they’re operating on the same page.


Murray Guest  16:14

You know, what the other thing that I’m picking up with this theme of grace is also this theme of removing the assumptions or validating our assumptions. So we’re running off them as part of life and the way we live, but with this, this need to actually bring to the fore and talk through it. So we’re not just making an assumption of a, you know, that I’m going to need this time. Because I need the quiet time. All right, you know, no, actually, let’s talk about it. Let’s make it clear. Let’s make it over and work through that. And I’m hearing how people are getting that the importance and the impact that’s having. So it’s removing those assumptions, removing the stress. So yeah, definitely.


Becky Hammond  16:58

Yeah. So what would you say kind of are the common behaviors or actions that leaders I mean, like, so we’re talking about communications, there’s some some really good stories that we’ve heard some of it’s about, you know, about building trust. What, what are some of the practices that you feel like these are the key parts of what good communication looks like, coming out of crisis and kind of into even an uncertain time.


Murray Guest  17:28

Yeah, so I think what pops into my head first on this, Becky is having that conversation sooner. So I think about the difference between great managers and good managers, and great managers act sooner. And I think that’s one of the key things is communicating sooner, not waiting, whether that’s one on one or with the team, but having those conversations sooner. So that’s one thing. Second thing is being aware that it may be difficult. And even making that clear with the person talking about it, might be a tough conversation, but saying, hey, look, I know this might feel a bit icky. This might be a bit clunky, but I know it’s something we need to talk about. So you actually put that out there. Because that will then ease the tension. I think the other thing is, don’t rush it. Don’t be like, hey, it’s before we’re about to start our meeting. And I’ve got two minutes to tell you this is really important thing, which we have never talked about and blah. So you allow yourself again, the grace and the kindness for you and the person you’re talking to or the people through the time to have that conversation. And to do that effectively, you might need to do a bit of preparation. So a leader I was talking to this week, he needs to provide some feedback as a colleague, not someone he leads, but a peer. And he’s not happy with the way they’ve been interacting on a project. And we had a really valuable conversation about how he’s going to prepare for that conversation, not just go in and blurt it out. So again, that preparation is really important. And again, how you can show up with some empathy and kindness for that person. I think the other part is being open to owning your stuff as well. So with communication, it’s about how can we be future focused, solution focus, moving forward. And what’s your contribution? And when you own your stuff, when you show that vulnerability that opens up the space for someone else to own theirs as well. And that takes courage and courage creates a space for other people to own theirs as well.


Becky Hammond  19:41

That’s true. Yeah. And you’re talking about being a good manager versus a great manager. Another thing that great managers do in this concept of communication is they individualize their communication. The best leaders that I’ve ever met, really understand their team. I mean, kind of this goes back to knowing your people from Leaders Who Give a Damn program, that when you really know them, you can individualize your communication. And then their communication becomes much more effective. If you know that someone loves recognition and praise, then you can start every conversation with a genuine specific recognition and praise, right? Or if you know that you need time to think about things, you can give them a little, you know, heads up. But first, before you have a homerun conversation, saying, Hey, you know, I want to talk about this XYZ. And so I wanted to give you a little bit of time to think about it. I mean, those two examples, like there’s, you know, hundreds of different examples of ways that can utilise communication.


Murray Guest  20:49

Well, the bit that I think, and you and I are very passionate about strengths, and I think about knowing the strengths and preferences of people and how they like to be communicated with not to, with, and the one that I see comes up quite a bit is that context. And knowing when you’re communicating with someone how important context is to them, some people it’s not so important that might not be that, that big for them to know the detail, know the why, know the past and others, it is so important, and knowing that changes how that conversation’s going to go. Because I’ve seen it when that context has been left out. And it’s important to someone and they still just don’t get the why or the how and and they’re not engaged to it. And it honestly just doesn’t land. Whereas if someone has that importance to them, and you know that and, as you said, individualize the communication and embrace that, they’re going to really listen, and you’re going to have a much better conversation.


Becky Hammond  21:48

Yeah, and you’re going to be less frustrated as a leader too, right? Because more of your things are going to land, more of the things you want to communicate are going to compute, that you’re going to have a more rich dialogue back and forth, instead of just like, here I’m communicating to you. And yet, you don’t, you don’t know if it lands, you don’t know if it really sticks, if it’s really accepted and understood. And so you’ll be less frustrated, if you realize like, Oh, this person needs lots of context, don’t be, you know, I don’t need to be frustrated by that, I just need to provide that. And now, they’re going to be on board with the, you know, the next steps or at least more readily on board with the next steps.


Murray Guest  22:26

And as we talk about in Leaders Who Give a Damn program, we talk about self awareness. And there’s the self awareness about our own blind spots and our own communication preferences. And being aware of that, how they might show up. So yes, we want to tailor our communication for those people we’re talking with, but also how we might have our own blind spots, which are going to maybe not match this and just being aware of that, and, and being a bit flexible about that. So we can be effective in that communication. Something we talk about in one of our future conversations Becky, just want to plant the seed here, it’s really important, is the importance of clarity. And it’s such a theme that I know you and I are going to talk about with some passion. And we’ve seen this. And of course communication and these more frequent, regular, short conversations, bring that clarity. And with clarity, we reduce stress, we reduce anxiousness, we increase engagement, we actually improve the alignment and productivity. So communication and clarity go beautifully together.


Becky Hammond  23:32

Yeah, and have such an amazing impact not just on your team, but on yourself as a leader as well, just like, I can breathe easier. I mean, I know for a fact that that leader who didn’t really want to dig into the details of all the things that went wrong on that tech issue. When she did, she breathed easier, because now she can trust this person going forward as well. So it wasn’t just about resolving the past, but trusting going forward. And in that communication piece was a huge part of her feeling a new level of trust with that, that person.


Murray Guest  24:10

So a couple of suggestions here I want to put out Becky, it sort of builds beautifully on your individualization of communication that you mentioned. So one of them is, and this was a quote from a manager recently I was talking to, he said, Everything doesn’t need to be a zoom meeting.


Becky Hammond  24:28

Wait, what? It doesn’t?! 


Murray Guest  24:31

No, no. And his perspective that he’s been feeling is, Okay, we’re all working from home, hey, everyone, let’s embrace zoom, and just zoom, zoom, zoom zoom all the time. And he’s like, I’m so over it. He said, can’t we just have a quick phone call sometimes. And I think that the evolution was everything was being emailed. And then now we sort of moved into these online meetings. So I think take the pause in your communication and what’s the best platform for this conversation? Is it zoom? That could be, but it also might be an email, or it might be a quick phone call, might even be a text message. But knowing what’s going to be best. Another one I want to quickly share. And that is don’t schedule your meetings for 60 minutes or 30 minutes.


Becky Hammond  25:21

What what, like 54 minutes or something?


Murray Guest  25:25

Hey I like 54 minutes. Imagine being invited to a meeting for 54 minutes, people are going to say, What? Why is it 54? What I do with the other six minutes, what happens? You know what, with that six minutes take a breath. We do talk about this in Leaders Who Give a Damn. And it’s just a little tweak. It’s a little twist. So many teams and leaders have back to back meetings. If we give ourselves some grace, give ourselves some time. You know what, I’ll put my hand up here and say, I reckon that what you want to cover in 60 minutes is going to get covered in 50 minutes or 54 minutes, as you said. Or not 30 minutes, but 25. And what they will give you is some time, give you some time and some grace to go to the bathroom, to get a drink, to get to eat. If you’ve got back to back meetings. I challenge people. Stretch. Let’s get out of our seats. I challenge people to try this and see the impact. And actually let us know and share it online. I’d love to know. Yep, tag Becky and I. And what’s the impact when you’ve started setting meetings for 54 minutes or 23 minutes? And it’s going to change people’s mindset and start to rewire their brain. Again, something different is happening. And let’s just give it a shot and see what difference it makes.


Becky Hammond  26:53

Yeah. And just one little additional challenge to that. Try not to fill those extra six minutes with checking your email real fast between meetings, right? I mean, sometimes you got to do that. Or maybe you’re checking it in your meeting. But the the point of that is to create space, and to create a mental space for the next meeting, maybe so that you’re communicating well in the next meeting, and not just kind of blowing off steam from the last meeting. And so as you do that, you’re kind of being intentional about what do I use those six minutes for, those five minutes for, that are in between meetings as well.


Murray Guest  27:27

100% totally agree. And I think that’s a great build on the shortened meetings that and to what we’re talking about here in leadership about investing in yourself, giving yourself that time and your team. Because when you do that there’s a ripple effect as well. So Becky, to wrap us up, I’d love you to share what some of the links here that you see with our Leaders Who Give a Damn program as well.


Becky Hammond  27:56

Yeah, yeah, you know, over seven modules, Murray and I have seven conversations. And in those seven conversations, we talk about self awareness, well being, knowing your people, managing perceptions, prioritizing conversations, valuing relationships at every level, and tackling busyness. And I would say that communication is a common thread that is kind of weaved throughout every single one of those modules. And, and kind of like today where we try to leave you with a couple of like, well, what can I do with this? That’s that’s what we do in the Leaders Who Give a Damn program as well. That’s even more robust with worksheets and action items and just kind of an action plan for how can I really put these things into place so that my leadership does make an impact so that I am a leader that other people just are hankering to follow, are inspired to follow. And so if you’re enjoying conversations like this podcast, I think you’ll really, really enjoy the Leaders Who Give a Damn program.


Murray Guest  28:57

I totally agree. And I’ve loved our conversations on that program just as much as this one today. And just getting to share the great things that leaders are doing that are working and what we know have worked over the years as leaders ourselves. So again, Becky, this has been awesome chatting about the importance of communication and I look forward to some of those tags as people try some of these little tips we’re talking about. So thank you again, so much.


Becky Hammond  29:25

Yeah, this has been wonderful. And our podcast number three in this series, we’ll be talking about individualization and flexibility. So stay tuned for that one, we’ll love to have a conversation about what that means as a leader and what it can mean into this kind of new period coming out of crisis. So we’ll chat later, Murray.


Murray Guest  29:45

Yep. See you on individualization. Thanks, Becky. 


Becky Hammond  29:48

All right. Bye.


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