By replacing unhelpful communication habits, we become better coworkers, better leaders and establish a solid foundation for our very own People Driven Center.
For being in “communications,” we sure don’t communicate with each other very well.
In the journey to adulthood, we tend to pick up bad communication habits. Maybe our parents modeled less-than-stellar methods of resolving conflict. Maybe we take the complexity of communication for granted, and find it’s easier to blame others than evaluate our own skills. Or perhaps we’ve been in jobs before where communication wasn’t prioritized — so we’ve learned not to prioritize it ourselves.
There’s an effect to bringing these bad habits into the comm center. We may miss solutions to important problems. We may negatively impact our coworkers when we don’t communicate clearly or often enough. We may contribute to a strained and toxic culture. Conflicts, which are inevitable at the comm center, become nearly impossible to navigate productively.
Effective communication, on the other hand, is much more likely to foster a positive environment and healthy comm center culture. Several studies show that better communicators not only create a better workplace — they get more of what they want as well. Additionally, leaders who are the most effective communicators build relationships based on vulnerability and trust, even in the midst of conflict.
Which communication skills do you bring to the table? By replacing unhelpful communication habits, we become better coworkers, better leaders and establish a solid foundation for our very own People Driven Center.
#1) Are you listening?
We usually head into meetings and other interactions well armed with what we want to say — but we are less often prepared to listen. Instead of being an actively engaged listener while the other person talks, we tend to focus more on what we’re going to say next. By going into a conversation ready to listen, however, we can get the exchange off to a productive start.
The next time you’re in a conversation, check your listening habits. What’s your body language saying? Are your arms crossed, reflecting your closedness to the situation? Are you leaning in a bit, demonstrating your clear interest? Do you make eye contact? How distracted are you? Is your phone dominating your attention? Are you listening through judgement and filters?
For many, this is sometimes the most challenging part of the job, because we aren’t necessarily paid to listen — we’re paid to get information quickly. But when we make the effort to properly listen, we become better communicators.
#2) Are you prepared?
You wouldn’t come to a job interview without doing some prep work first — so why should the conversations you have once you’ve landed the job be any different? Conflicts and other sensitive exchanges are not the time to improvise when it comes to your communication game. You can cut down significantly on the amount of time it takes to mitigate conflicts (and on pre-meeting nerves!) by doing some homework beforehand.
For example, consider the objective of the meeting. What do you hope the exchange will accomplish? What is the best possible outcome of this exchange? What information do you need before taking your next step?
Prepare some questions that give both the other person and yourself the opportunity for deeper introspection. Allow the person you’re meeting with a chance to share from their perspective, and you may see the situation — and its solution — from an entirely new angle.
#3) Have you put yourself in the other person’s shoes?
How would you respond to the questions you’re going to ask? Are your questions closed-ended, soliciting “yes” or “no” answers, with little room for the other person to provide their point of view?
And speaking of point of view — have you listened open-mindedly to theirs? How did you feel on occasions you faced similar challenges? Before you got to the position you’re in now, you likely experienced the same thing the other person is experiencing currently. The situation may be old news to you, but to them, it might be an overwhelming new challenge. What did you want your leadership team to keep in mind about you when you approached them for help in the past?
Too often we find ourselves unable to bridge the “empathy gap” because we forget to consider how it felt when we were struggling with similar obstacles. Remember that the other person is just that — a person.
#4) Do you ask for feedback?
If you have more years on the job or have reached a higher rank than the person you’re meeting with, the exchange likely involved a lot of input from you. When the meeting has accomplished what you set out to accomplish, have the courage to turn the tables. Ask the other person, “Was the feedback I gave helpful?”
It may feel daunting to open yourself up to criticism, but many meetings focus on how one person can change without touching at all on what the other person can do to improve as well. The input they give here can be invaluable for fine-tuning both your communication skills and your conflict-solving skills.
Remember, if you ask for feedback after offering feedback of your own, receive it with goodwill and commit to acting upon it.
Productive communication habits stimulate a culture of accountability within your center while also acting as the glue that bonds a high performing team together. With good communication skills, comm center leaders can transform the most challenging discussions into opportunities for growth—on both sides of the table.
Thanks for reading this article, containing excerpts of my upcoming book, “People Driven Leadership: How the Best 9-1-1 Centers Inspire Positive Change.” In anticipation of its release on April 13th, I’m excited to share brief snapshots like this each Wednesday and Friday, exclusively for The Healthy Dispatcher community.
This is the ninth article of 20. Stay tuned for the next!
“People Driven Leadership: How the Best 9-1-1 Centers Inspire Positive Change” will be available on April 13, 2020, the beginning of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. For more details, visit The Healthy Dispatcher website.