Are you one of the 69%?

Closeup photo of someone holdinmg a can with a cord and shouting into it.According to a Harris Poll / Interact survey, 69% of managers are “often uncomfortable” communicating with their employees.

I think that number is probably a lot higher. I would be willing to bet ALL managers and leaders are uncomfortable in at least some interactions with their teams.

Communication is an essential leadership skill.

It’s also a skill where there’s seldom a definite right answer. People are unpredictable, situations can be tense, and knowing the exact right thing to say to get someone to do what you want (or stop doing what you don’t want) is an unrealistic, and generally unattainable, goal.

The best we can do is … the best we can do.

But for those of us who take management and leadership seriously, that’s not a very comfortable place to be.

Meanwhile, a recent Gallup research poll shows that only 13% of employees feel their leadership communicates effectively … meaning 87% of employees feel their leadership does not communicate well.

There’s a problem here.

But what can we do about it?

Start by recognizing how normal this is

You’re not alone in this. The survey results make that very clear!

What’s really going on?

The minute someone starts feeling uncomfortable in a situation, that person retreats into a “self-centric” world. In this discomfort, even the most empathetic of individuals begin thinking only about themselves – how they feel, what they want, and what they really wish would happen.

As you read this, I’m sure you can tell how unhelpful that is – and also how natural and human it is. 

Another key leadership skill is self-awareness

When you can notice and acknowledge your discomfort, you can manage it.

There’s no silver bullet or magic wand here. The reality is that communication is often difficult and uncomfortable, no matter who you are or whom you’re speaking with. I think we all know this, even though we also all wish it were different!

Adding to this uncomfortable puzzle is that noticing, acknowledging, and managing discomfort in these situations usually means feeling vulnerable.

I suspect vulnerability is another key leadership skill. What do you think?