UACES Facebook Clarity in Communication Creates Creative and Committed Teams and Builds a Culture to Celebrate
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Clarity in Communication Creates Creative and Committed Teams and Builds a Culture to Celebrate

by Mary Savin, Professor, Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science - February 3, 2023

Mary SavinThe January 2023 session was one of our virtual iLEAD sessions. This past month, over Zoom, we covered ground in different areas, including discussion of goals, leadership projects, leadership communication in the workplace, and reactions to previous interactions.

January is a natural time of the year to think of resets and renewal. People often form goals for the upcoming new year. I do not have much confidence in my own ability to follow through with New Year’s resolutions, so I do generally do not make them. However, I do have some professional goals that are important for life satisfaction as well as professional development. Of course, for me after sharing, there is a greater sense of the self-imposed pressure to follow through with putting a plan in action to achieve the goals. The sharing of goals also brought back the importance of making SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. While the challenge for some may be to set SMART goals, the challenge for me is acting on the timely aspects to establish attainable steps in order to progress and accomplish the end result. Success for achieving goals has tremendous personal and professional potential. Considering others’ goals reminded me that personal and professional success, however defined by individuals, is a shared experience.  

After goals, we discussed leadership projects. Some projects are shared endeavors among multiple participants, while others will carry out projects individually. Similar to our own goals, each project benefits from shared experience - from input and contributions of our team. Our leadership project ideas have generated multiple initiatives to help improve different programs and resources in the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Some projects may be logistically more complicated to achieve, while some projects may benefit people more at different stages of their lives and careers, but all will result in a needed improvement.

Given limited solo activities in work and life, communication in the workplace is a worthy development. Why is effective communication important? The iLEAD participants covered points such as the value of transparency, reinvigorated engagement, decreased frustration, and increased creativity. People provided a variety of perspectives and experiences related to effective communication. Discussion reinforced the importance of diverse teams, which means that likely one approach to communicate will not work for all people and situations. Diverse teams promote visionary and strategic endeavors, which requires the recognition that different people will benefit from different approaches in communication (because of a variety of reasons such as coming from different cultures and bringing different experiences, perceptions, and expectations to interactions).

Effective communication is a deceivingly complicated concept. A leader (and a manager) should have a communication plan. This advice resonated with me. One can strive for clear communication, but “check-ins” can reveal the reality that for the receiver, or other party (parties) in the relationship, the message may be muddied upon receipt. My experiences have suggested that people often think that they are being clear in their communication, but messages may not reach the audience, or at least the complete audience, as intended, if at all. People interpret messages in ways sometimes anticipated and frequently in ways that were not anticipated.

Considering the How of communication is paramount to effective communication and should include culture and expectations. As a leader, one should keep the roles of leadership versus those of a manager in mind in order to achieve the goals of the message. Tips and strategies for effective communication that I noted from this session include to be engaged, distill concepts, and be equitable, which may mean having different strategies for different people. Other tips and strategies include being honest, consistent, and empathetic, following through, getting “boots on the ground”, uniting people around a single cause, transmitting confidence, and embracing open, honest feedback, among others. Active listening involves verbal and non-verbal cues and two-way communication. I enacted a new component in communication with my team in order to incorporate some diversity in communication modes, increase engagement, and help distill important concepts. I am hoping that the inclusion of this new component will set a positive tone and culture, and facilitate skill development for both projects and people. While the Why may be foundational, the How is crucial to success.

A last topic for our January iLEAD session connected directly to a previous session on emotional intelligence (EQ). One can anticipate a development of communication skills with EQ progression. We contemplated reactions to previous interactions, and reflected on how to react differently in the future. None of us can control others. We can be mindful of how people’s reactions alter interactions. We can learn to control our reactions. There will be situations that make us angry or annoyed. There will be situations in which we are not treated fairly. A skill with tremendous impact is learning how to control how we react. It is important to be aware of how we react in different situations, and understand when reactions are counter-productive because of emotion.

The January iLEAD session was filled with discussion, links to previous leadership topics, future goals, project development, and skill development. In the spirit of shared experiences through this iLEAD program, I pass along our homework. Using an asset based approach, reflect on leadership strengths. What support structures and opportunities could be leveraged to create a pathway for you (and/or colleagues in your community) to develop weaknesses into strengths and lead to success in achieving goals?

The iLEAD program provides professional development opportunities to support employee retention. For more information about the iLEAD program contact Dr. Julie Robinson, or Lisa Davis,