As administrative assistants and leaders, your daily job responsibilities go far beyond computer know-how and scheduling meetings. You’re the multi-tasker extraordinaire, the time manager, the problem solver and the confidante. An adept administrative assistant is like a main artery to the heart of the company, the one who keeps the office running efficiently.
In today’s workplace, your communication skills are also essential to your success. To borrow a quote from James Humes, renowned author and presidential speechwriter, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”
Do you want to communicate more effectively with peers, stakeholders, team members and your boss? Then the first step is to understand that leadership is a decision that can – and must – be developed at all levels of every organization.
Businesses are complex, no matter what their size. They are comprised of a web of entities fused together with people, projects and mission follow-through. Though, one fundamental principle of success remains constant in all businesses and leadership: the need for clear, effective communication.
Enter conversational leadership.
Conversational leadership gives everyone a voice and encourages trust and close-working relationships. It uses conversation as a way for everyone within the organization to communicate. Conversational leadership ultimately leads to shared meaning, deeply respectful dialogue and effective listening. It is a win-win for you and the business and gives you the power to succeed.
Where to Begin
Conversational leadership begins with you. Communication manifests in both verbal and nonverbal forms. What we communicate isn’t always what the other person hears. Our message goes through a complicated system of filters and outside influences before it reaches the recipient. To be an effective communicator, we must always clarify the person has received the message we intended to send.
Four I’s of Organizational Leadership
In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven workplace, we must be proficient to communicate in a way that’s inclusive and breaks down silos – a process that becomes a fluid conversation with a clear purpose and understanding.
The “Four I’s” forms a single, integrated process for conversational leadership. Add these essentials to your professional development for communications excellence.
- Intimacy – Distance can exist between you and others when communicating no matter whether you are in the same room, talking over the phone or emailing. Those gaps, however, can be bridged when you purposely strive and create something that gives way to an emotional closeness or proximity. This proximity lends itself to conversational intimacy, which in the organizational sense, is gaining recognition as a function of leadership. It also builds trust and listening skills.
Conversational intimacy flourishes when hierarchal levels/titles are not a basis of power. This form of conversational leadership lends itself to collaboration, productivity and engagement.
- Interactivity – A commitment to interactivity provides the place for you to speak up and engage in the conversation. Inter comes from the Latin meaning “between” and emphasizes that conversation exists as an exchange, a back-and-forth process through which we communicate.
Interactivity is a type of conversational leadership that promotes dialogue, which means you spend time listening, exchanging comments and asking questions. You do not do all the talking, rather your focus is to gain necessary information and consensus.
- Inclusion – This form of conversational leadership builds on the channels of intimacy and interactivity and is an example of full participation from within your workplace. Inclusion allows you, as an employee, to have control of generated company communication and sharing your thoughts through, for example, social media, blogs and newsletters.
This type of conversational leadership expands your role and helps develop you as a brand ambassador and thought leader. Research says when employees are involved in what was formerly a corporate communications role, the mood of those communications becomes more personal. It empowers you and helps raise your morale and engagement. In fact, inclusion makes you feel the company’s vision is your own vision.
- Intentionality – Last, but certainly not least is intentionality, which means you can have open and honest discussions, but there must always be a reason to have
Conversational intentionality is also about knowing ahead of time how you are going to hold a conversation and when to end it. All conversations, even the good ones, must come to an end. One aspect of intentionality is it makes the effort needed to end the conversation a little easier than in a wandering dialogue. Having an end in mind, even if it is vague, helps those involved to identify the right place to wind things up.
Conversational leadership provides the infrastructure and opportunity for knowledge sharing to take place. It sharpens your communication skills and allows for you to be involved in discussing important issues and generating solutions that you and others within your organization can act upon. It provides the foundational success for you to do your job well.
Bonus Tips for Better Listening
Listening is such an important part of a conversation. When you demonstrate good listening skills, they tend to be infectious. If you want people to communicate well, you must set a high example. Review these tips to become a better listener:
- Decide to Listen
Close your mind to clutter and noise and look at the person speaking with you. Give them your undivided attention.
- Don’t Interrupt
Make it a habit to let the speaker finish his message. Respect they have thoughts they are processing and sharing and wait to ask questions or make comments until they have finished.
- Maintain Eye Contact
Give your undivided attention to the speaker. This facilitates communication excellence and shows the speaker your are focused on what he or she has to say – and it relays respect.
- Ask Questions
When you ask questions, people will know you are listening and interested in what they have to say. Your ability to summarize and paraphrase will also demonstrate you understood their message.
About the Author:
Nancy Schnoebelen Imbs is an empowering professional development consultant, dynamic motivational speaker and author. Highly dedicated and results-oriented, she has the skill and passion for helping individuals become more confident and successful in business and beyond. She and her company Polished help clients focus on key adjustments that result in meaningful impact and effectiveness.