3 Effective Communication Tips That I Learned From My Dog

My wife and I recently rescued a dog.  He is a a German shepherd/husky mix.  We were told that he was house trained but the foster family did not know what his signs were when he needed “to go”.  So, we had to discover these subtle signs.  As we were going through this process, a thought came over me.  This is the same process leaders that leaders go through with the people that they lead.  What behaviors (i.e. signs) do your team members demonstrate when issues arise?  Here are three effective communication tips to help leaders uncover these signs.

#1 Watch and Observe

My wife and I watched our new dog in the first few days.  We were looking for patterns when he was in distress (i.e. he felt the need to relieve himself).  We noticed that he would pace up and down the hallway.  He would on occasion place his nose on our lap and stare up at us.  When these behaviors occurred, we then would take him outside.  Low and behold, he would relieve himself.  With regard to your team members, what are their subtle behaviors that they need to communicate with you? Are they quiet when they are usually talkative? If you can identify these patterns, you will have the ability to approach conversations proactively and have real conversations about issues.

#2 Rewarding Effective Communication Tips

When we noticed our dog’s behavior that he needed to relieve himself and then when he did, we rewarded this behavior.  We wanted to reward his persistence in telling us (since he had several signs). After all, sometimes my wife and I would not catch his first signal.  The reward for my wife and I is that we do not have a smelly, “poopy” house!  When your team members are trying to communicate to you, do you reward them?  Now, you do not need to give them a “cookie” like we do with our dog.  However, are you open and available to having the conversation?  Your reward system with your team members can be as simply as being available to having a conversation.  Thank your team member for surfacing the issue.  Do not punish the messenger!

#3 Be Available

When we are home, we try to be available to our dog.  We watch as he maneuvers around our home.  We are actively listening to our dog.  Effective communication starts there.  Actively listening means taking the time to watch and listen.  It does not mean “staying in your office” and waiting for your team members to come to you.  Part of being available also include being approachable.  Do people feel comfortable enough to approach you?  Do you display a “stay away from me vibe”?

These effective communication tips will help improve your communication effectiveness.  It takes focus and energy.  But most importantly, be mindful of your actions.  It will go a long way to building effective inter-personal communications.

Ted Gorski is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) through the International Coach Federation.  He works with new/emerging leaders both internationally and domestically.  He is host of “The Leadership Edge” TV show which is aired on Bedford Community TV and YouTube.  He is author of the book, “Trailblazing Leadership”.  Ted also conducts workshops and personal assessments to “Unlock the Leader in You”.