Great Leaders CONNECT

August 8, 2012

The administrative team for Thika and Limuru has been going through Mark Miller and Ken Blanchard’s new book, Great Leaders GROW. This is the third book in the series of Great Leaders SERVE. These books have been a huge asset in building and developing me and the CFA staff over the past year. So in honor of the book series, I have decided to come up with an acronym of my own. Over my time leading, I have learned that great cross-cultural leaders must CONNECT.

I use the word CONNECT, because I think that it embodies one of the most important aspects of leadership, which is influence. Influence is only as potent as your ability to connect. Connecting becomes even more important in a situation where you are from a different culture from those you work with, whether overseas or cross-culturally.

Over the next several blogs, I’ll explain what each letter in CONNECT means. Each letter pertains to a theme of how to connect with those that you lead. With each theme, I want to share a little bit of what I have learned about that idea. The first letter is C.

C stands for Communicate Effectively: Communicating abroad is one thing, and often difficult in itself. Sometimes it means using a translator or even having to learn the language. For sure, it means understanding the culture. But communication alone is not good enough. It must be intentional and directional. Communication must be thought out, purposeful, and understandable. Communication can be used to accomplish a task, teach information, or build relationships. Whatever the purpose, how well you communicate will determine how well you connect.

With verbal and written communication, I have learned that you must be clear and detailed, yet precise.

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You have to put in extra time to consider how you will say something before you say it. Be willing to repeat yourself if necessary, and even ask for the person you are speaking with to repeat back what you have said. Sometimes giving examples or demonstrating the action can help clarify something unclear. If you fail to communicate well, objectives and goals can get hazy. Hazy objectives get hazy results.

Communication is more than just speaking to people. Communication is a two way street. It involves listening too. In most circumstances, this is just as important. Not only listening, but understanding and relaying back to the speaker that you understand them. If you don’t understand, ask them to say it differently. It can take humility and patience at times, but don’t stop until you are confident you know what is being said or asked of you.

For me, communicating effectively overseas also involves knowing and abiding by social queues and body language within the cultural norms. With all communication, you have to be appropriate and relevant in the culture you are in, or to the culture you are speaking with. You may have to use a different vocabulary, cut out clichés, or rephrase unclear sayings. The good thing is that people are gracious, as I have found out. They understand that I may miss-speak what I want to say, or interpret their thoughts differently. Really when it comes down to it, it takes a good leader both practice and patience. Keep trying and be genuine!