5 Things a CEO Can Learn From Vistage: Pt. 2 — Tools for Effective Communication

This week we are excited to bring to you Part 2 of our series on The Five Things a CEO Can Learn From Vistage: Tools for Communication.

Most of life’s problems arise from an inability to communicate effectively. But why is that? Why is something that seems so simple, in reality so difficult?

Clear, concise, effective communication is a talent. It is something people must work at to develop. Luckily for you, I have some tips on how to make your communication 100% effective. It starts with this simple fact: Not one person or culture communicates the same way.

This truth was illustrated to me during a monthly session with my Vistage Chair Lance Descourouez. He began with a question which I will now pose to you: What are the chances a person would tell you there was food stuck in your teeth? Or that a particular outfit is unflattering?

While I would hope my family and friends would truthfully point out the broccoli in my teeth or unflattering shirt, Lance explained that kind of communication wouldn’t happen across every culture.

Consider the Relationship

When we communicate with associates at work, it is generally to get a task done or convey important information. But it isn’t as simple as that. During any given communication, one must always consider the relationship.

Just as I count on family to tell me about food in my teeth, I count on colleagues to be transparent in our interactions so that we can complete projects and accomplish our goals. With that transparency however, comes the hard truths. Conversations that are vital to success, but potentially difficult to have.

Think with me for a moment; how likely is a trusted colleague to tell you a hard truth? On the other hand, how likely is a new hire to point out that same issue? And how likely is it for that new hire if you’re the boss? In my experience, there are only a handful of people with the gumption to speak up in that situation – and that’s in our culture, one where people are known to speak their mind.

Communicating Across Cultures

When communicating cross-culturally, the line grows even fuzzier.

Going back to the example of the unflattering shirt Lance introduced, many Asian cultures value the relationship higher than the task. As such, they would likely reassure you your shirt is just fine, especially if you were an Elder or Boss. Wear that same unflattering shirt in Europe, you’d be advised to change post haste because the task is of utmost importance. Then there are other areas, like in Latin America, where they try to find a balance between the relationship and the task, and you would likely be given a noncommittal answer on your shirt.

Not one approach is better than the other. They’re just different.

The Key Is Understanding

The key then is to understand how to navigate through these truths to come to the appropriate conclusion.

Looking at these cultural differences – or even those within our own corporate structures, we have to remember that there are communication differences that can affect the answers we get – even if we’re all speaking the same language.  We need to be aware of where our audience is coming from, how they communicate, and how they weigh the balance between tasks and relationships.

It’s this kind of insight that has made me an absolute fan of Vistage and their program.  It’s absolutely changed how I see and approach communication.  It’s as we implement these tools that our communication turns into 100% effective, allowing us to get the job done well while valuing our partners.


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5 Things a CEO Can Learn From Vistage: Pt. 1 — Becoming a Confident Leader

This week we are excited to bring to you a part 1 of a new series on The Five Things a CEO Can Learn From Vistage: Becoming a Confident Leader

Several years ago, I found myself extremely frustrated.  It didn’t seem as though I was getting the results I wanted from my staff.  After expressing this irritation and disappointment to the head of Human Resources, she recommended I join Vistage. Vistage is a premiere CEO coaching group.  After looking into it, I figured it was worth a shot.
After joining the program, I quickly felt weights being lifted. Things got clearer, easier, and better.  I felt as though I’d gone from navigating vicious, stormy seas in a tiny boat to sailing on a calm, serene lake.  About six months into coaching, Lance Descourouez asked me a life changing question:

Are You an Accomplished Leader?

“Bob,” he posed, “Do you consider yourself to be an accomplished CEO?”

My immediate, gut reaction was an emphatic, “No.” Lance prompted me to think more deeply about his question, but even after several minutes, my answer remained the same.  No, I did not feel like an accomplished CEO. Thankfully, Lance provided some follow up questions, sparking an epiphany. He asked:

 

    1. How long have you been in business?

At the time, it was 14 years.

    1. What’s your yearly revenue?

It was well north of seven figures.

    1. How many people do you employ?

There were 15-16 people on payroll at the time.

    1. Has the business survived any recessions?

Two, actually.

Lance then repeated his initial question: “Bob, do you consider yourself to be an accomplished CEO?”

Confidence Is Key

I’d been so busy looking at my goals that I’d neglected to look at the journey. I couldn’t see the forest through the trees. I couldn’t see that I was, in fact, a successful CEO. I accomplished more in those 14 years than most others do in a lifetime.

Then it hit me – I’d lost my confidence. That interaction helped restore it as well as my sense of direction. The transformation from uncertain and doubting to a fearless, self assured CEO was drastic. I felt like a caterpillar breaking free from my chrysalis.

Now, my purpose in telling the story is this: every leader has these kinds of doubts at one time or another. It is normal. But it is vital not to let those doubts break you or weigh you down.Confident and accomplished leaders are born by remembering who we are, where we were, and how far we’ve come.

That is why, as leaders, we need the support of good friends and coaches to help us keep our minds in the game. We need people who can help us own-up to our fears, answer the hard questions, and move forward with direction. We need people who’ve been there before, so they can help guide us through the dark times. Vistage is that support group.


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