Leading with Supportive, Mindful Communication
A Foundation for High-Performing Relationships and Teams

Supportive, mindful communication is a foundation for leading high-performing relationships and teams in work and life.

Whether we are leaders at work, volunteer organizations, or in our families, mindful communication strengthens relationships and inspires positive outcomes, energy, and engagement.

Jeff is a busy manager in a mid-size financial company. Rather than carefully listening when meeting with colleagues, he frequently multi-tasks, checking his emails or thinking about his next meeting. Jeff’s responses to staff are frequently abrupt and negative. Lately, several significant errors have been made in his department, which recently scored poorly on a survey of employee engagement.

A communication strategy that can positively impact team performance is the ratio of positive statements compared to negative statements (Cameron, 2012; Losada & Heaphy, 2004). In moderation – a ratio of three to six positive statements for each one negative statement — can stimulate higher team performance levels. Positive statements facilitate relationships and connection through sharing information and more positive interpersonal reactions.

In his book, Positive Leadership (2012), University of Michigan researcher Kim Cameron reports that positive leaders use supportive communication strategies. This includes sharing support, appreciation and encouragement when things are going well – and striving to preserve and support positive relationships when dealing with challenging or uncomfortable situations.

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Whether you’re currently a leader/manager, aspire toward a leadership role, or in a position to influence others in your personal life, relationships and supportive communication are important ingredients. Here are a few strategies leaders can engage to stimulate supportive, mindful communication:

1. Deliver more positive than negative messages in conversations.  Include feedback with the intention of strengthening and building relationship.

  • Share positive and negative messages that are supportive, appropriate and problem-focused – consider the other person’s feelings as well as your own.
  • Where it’s appropriate, show encouragement or appreciation. For example: “This is a good idea,” “You make a valid point here,” or “I appreciate your hard work on this.”

2.  Act in your own best interest while respecting the rights of others.

  • Listen carefully and respectfully. Ask the other person to listen carefully to you.
  • Speak clearly and firmly with a steady, calm voice.
  • Be aware of your body language – Make regular eye contact in a way that feels comfortable and respectful.
  • Squarely face the person you are talking with.

3. Speak and listen mindfully.

  • Be fully present to the conversation; focus on the person who is speaking, and listen intently.
  • Pay attention to the speaker’s reactions in addition to the words.  What do you see? What you hear?
  • Ask questions, listen to the speaker’s response, and clarify as needed.
  • When you notice you’re distracted, take a mindful pause and remind yourself to be fully present.

Resources:

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Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD is a life and leadership coach, psychologist, and educator. Ilene has dedicated much of her career to the personal and professional development and integrative well-being of others. As a life and leadership coach, psychologist, and educator, she inspires others to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online and access free resources at http://ileneberns-zare.com.

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