It’s something we do every day in a variety of different ways. When we think about communication though, the first thing that usually comes to mind is it’s verbal or written form:
- Saying “I love you,” to our children as we drop them off at school
- Chatting with our parents on the phone
- Texting with our best friends throughout the day
- Sending emails to our newsletter subscribers
- Tagging our team members in new projects via tools like Asana and Trello
- Posting updates to social media for the world to see
Merriam-Webster defines communication as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.
Communication is so much more than just the words we speak or write. It’s also the nonverbal actions and behaviors we exhibit every day, such as:
- Hugging our spouses/partners in the morning before heading out the door
- Sighing in frustration over the broken email link we sent out in our newsletter
- Giving a colleague a fist bump after he nailed his big presentation
- Rolling our eyes at the lady who can’t make up her mind in the fast food line
- Throwing our hands up in frustration at the guy who cut us off in traffic
- Holding the door for a mom struggling with a baby stroller
- Giving our kid the side eye after she dropped the gallon of milk – in our clean kitchen
- Slamming down a stack of papers after learning our employee made a mistake
Every little action we take is communicating something to those around us.
Good or bad.
Over time, these behaviors form the opinions and beliefs held by those around us. Our family, friends, peers, and team members.
A Quick Example with Carl
Tell me if this has happened to you before.
You walk into work and a colleague immediately whispers in your ear, “Watch out for Carl today. He’s in some kind of mood! He’s been walking around all morning huffing and sighing and slamming things down – he hasn’t said one word to any of us.”
Carl didn’t have to say a single thing to communicate that he was aggravated or frustrated. That he was in a bad mood or upset. Or perhaps that he was dealing with something really challenging.
Yet, everyone in the office knew right away – and were proactively telling others to avoid him at all costs.
Saying nothing may not seem like a bad thing to do as a leader when you’re in a funk, right?
We’ve been taught, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
But is that really always the case? Maybe we should add an addendum that says, “And don’t stomp around in a huff either, because that’s just as bad.”
The answer isn’t to say nothing when you’re upset or in a funk. Or worse, to say, “Everything’s fine,” but then continue to sigh heavily, slam things down on our desks, or send short, cryptic messages to our team (or whatever the opposite of your normal style happens to be).
Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening when we do.
Your Mood + Communication
Your mood affects how and what you communicate with your team.
Whether verbally or through your actions and behaviors, you’re saying something… even when you might not being saying anything at all.
You may even be saying all the right things, but your body language and your nonverbal cues could be telling a different story altogether.
And if you think your team doesn’t notice, think again. They notice all right. And they’ll respond in a way that causes the least friction – whether or not that’s what you want or need from them.
Because who wants to tick Carl off anymore than he already is?!
As leaders, we have to be even more self-aware than ever before.
The things we’re telling our teams – with our words and with our actions – will determine our overall success.
Understand what triggers you or puts you in a funk. Avoid those things when possible. When it’s something unavoidable, then find healthy ways to manage your emotions so you can remain more even keeled with your team.
A recent Forbes article about self-awareness in leadership highlighted that, “The one constant factor in all your endeavors is you; understanding yourself is therefore paramount.”
The article goes on to share that “Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, describes self-awareness as one of the core components of emotional intelligence. He defines emotional intelligence as your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.”
When we can’t manage our emotions, we will have a very difficult time managing our actions and behaviors. Which makes leading and managing a team and the relationships within that team nearly impossible.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering:
- Why doesn’t my team listen to me and do what I ask?
- Why are they afraid to bring things to my attention?
- Why isn’t my team working to their full potential?
I urge you to take a look at how you’re communicating with them.
By taking the time to work on and develop your communication skills – both verbal and behavioral – you will develop your leadership skills.
When you develop your leadership skills, you’ll become a better leader.
And when you become a better leader, your team will be happier and more productive.
Leading a team starts with you and it starts from within.