Learning the Language of Leadership: How to Communicate Effectively With Your Team

If you haven’t yet taken the plunge by hiring an Executive Assistant, it’s possible that one of the things holding you back is the fear of becoming a boss. It’s a huge responsibility! And part of that fear likely stems from not knowing whether you’ll communicate well with your new hire. Suddenly you will need to delegate, provide constructive feedback, and hold someone accountable. (That same someone will be holding you accountable, too!) These might be skills that you haven’t yet mastered.

If you have recently hired your first Executive Assistant or Transaction Coordinator (possibly becoming a boss for the first time in the process!), you likely have personal experience encountering roadblocks due to communication breakdowns.

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It is not uncommon for agents and office administrators to process and convey information differently. It’s not surprising; salespeople and administrators have very different behavioral styles, so it makes sense that they also communicate differently. That’s why it’s important for an employer to know how to speak effectively and efficiently so that they are not only heard but understood.

Just as you would adjust to accommodate clients who communicate differently than you, it’s helpful to do the same for your new assistant. This may mean slowing down more than you’re used to. This might be really hard to do but you are no longer a one-man or woman rodeo—you are a business. And no successful business dumps a ton of information on its newest hire and leaves them to fend for themselves. You’re making a huge financial investment, so go the extra mile and invest some extra time as well.

Understand your communication styles

Agents and admins communicate differently, and that can be an asset, but it can also create friction. A behavioral assessment tool like DISC is valuable in determining the strengths and weaknesses of your new hire (and your team!). Familiarize yourself with the four fundamental communication styles: dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness.

We all tend toward one or more of these categories depending on the task at hand and our own nature. However, as we develop professionally we may find ourselves favoring one communication style over another. Self-awareness here is key: Understanding your own style is essential to meeting the other person in the middle.

For example, most agents tend to be drivers, or dominant (“D”) communicators. They are decisive and assertive. They want the facts, and they want them now. (Yesterday if possible.) This dominant personality type may become pronounced over time, and for someone starting out in the business—especially an introverted assistant—it can be intimidating.

People who succeed in administrative roles can often temper a dominant personality with a more organized, detailed, and task-oriented approach. These people often score a high “S” or “C” in the DISC assessment. People who are more steady and conscientious are more likely to think before they speak and ask questions to gain context and perspective. The Yin to your Yang.

Regardless of your styles, always approach discussions with your admin with the assumption that they've done their best and want to do quality work. Slow down enough to give your admins the chance to ask questions. Remember, your admin can’t read your mind. People don’t necessarily hear the song you hear in your head just because you’re tapping it out on the table. Sometimes you have to sing it for them!

Having a diverse team is important, and empathy is a key ingredient to any successful team. Emotions play a key role in productivity and it’s imperative that your assistant really “gets” you—and feels that you get them, too! By understanding the different communication styles, you’ll not only be better off in making the right hire, but you’ll also eliminate much of the guesswork of how best to communicate with them.

Here are a few other tips that will help you be a better communicator:

  • Ask questions to verify that you’re on the same page, and listen to your admins and the questions they have. Don’t over-explain. Instead, favor plain language. Keep it brief and keep it simple.

  • Know when to speak. Schedule daily check-ins and distraction-free time to review files and other matters. Schedule weekly team meetings in the same vein and give everyone a chance to speak. Make time for an occasional one-on-one meeting in addition to regular team meetings, and honor those check-ins you have scheduled with your assistant. By staying on the same page throughout the day, you’ll avoid overstepping boundaries and pestering your assistant after hours with dinner-time texts.

  • Lead by example. Come prepared to meetings and be responsive to updates from your team. Jump in when there are fires to put out, but be more hands-off when they can figure it out on their own! During training sessions, it always helps to walk new hires through a process before sending them off on their own. The use of concrete examples and a hands-on approach helps contextualize learning.

  • Learn effective body language. Remember, physical expression speaks volumes. Phone-free face time is important for communicating well and making sure you’re on the same page. Make yourself approachable in all the usual ways you would with a potential new client—smile, lean forward, make eye contact, and nod to indicate you’re both in sync.

The key to effective leadership is good communication. Your business’ culture will surely evolve as your team grows, so make sure you’re doing what you can to set the stage now. Business culture—and success—is determined in large part by how well your team communicates. And the language of leadership starts with you!

Want more on this topic? Watch our Team Communication Mastermind Session.