Effective communication is undeniably the linchpin for successful leadership within any organisation, particularly for those spearheading startups. The challenge lies in the nature of language itself, a medium fraught with potential for misunderstanding due to the subjective interpretation inherent in verbal and written communication.
Our thoughts primarily take the form of sensory representations – mental images, sounds, and sensations. However, when these nuanced ideas are translated into words, they inevitably undergo distortion, generalisation, and omission. Take, for instance, the characterization of a report as ‘difficult’. This word serves as a vague descriptor or an ‘unspecified verb’, carrying only as much detail as the listener’s own interpretation of the term. To address this ambiguity, leaders must develop the ability to identify and probe missing information, often verbs and nouns, from a speaker’s statements.
Consider the phrase ‘the decision was made’. This sentence carries double omissions: what the decision specifically entailed, and who made it. Beyond omissions, communication often involves untested generalisations and distortions of information. This is where the art of ‘framing’ becomes an essential tool for leaders.
Framing, in a leadership context, refers to the process of defining situations, objectives, problems, opportunities, and potential solutions. The way leaders frame these facets of their work can significantly impact the effectiveness of team, department, or company leadership.
Dr. John Grinder, a renowned linguist, conceived an approach to interpersonal communication known as ‘the verbal package’. This method combines the concepts of framing and clarification to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of leadership communication.
Framing sets the boundaries for an interaction. Skilled leaders frame conversations around outcomes, intentions, present conditions, relevancy, context, and consequences. Prior to a meeting, they define the context and their desired outcomes and intentions. With rapport established, they apply a series of frames related to the meeting’s context and objectives, present conditions, and potential strategies and resources.
During the conversation, leaders must challenge distortions, generalisations, and deletions in the language of others. This can be done using two specifier questions: one for nouns and one for verbs. For instance, if a colleague states, ‘We are investigating new markets’, the leader can ask, ‘What markets specifically?’ then ‘Investigating, how specifically?’ to get further clarity.
Implementing the verbal package, through deliberate framing and the use of specification questions, can significantly enhance focus, reduce misunderstandings, and improve overall business communication. As part of our ‘Engage’ program and our postgraduate training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (10970NAT Graduate Certificate), we teach these communication and leadership patterns, offering a comprehensive toolkit for mastering the art of leadership communication.
We teach precision framing and questioning on our 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming program.
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