How Dads Can Model Leadership Communication

Dads are role models in many walks of life, whether at home, at the office, or in the wider community. Being a boss, coach, mentor, teacher or spiritual leader is a kind of fatherhood as well.

For all that great dads out there (biological or otherwise,) the way that you communicate with your loved ones, employees, colleagues and neighbors has a greater impact than you might imagine. So in the spirit of Father’s Day, here are three tips to ensure that you're modeling the communication skills that will create the kind of “family” culture people truly want to be a part of.

First, ask genuine questions, Sincere questions. Not rhetorical questions like, “What were you thinking?” or, “What am I supposed to do with this?” That kind of questioning can sound combative and lead to the other person fighting back in self-defense or otherwise completely shutting down.

Ask real questions that seek to understand the other side. “I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this; Help me understand the rationale behind your choice,” or, “The current system/routine clearly isn't working. What do you think would be a more effective, sustainable solution?” are genuine, open ended questions that show your sincere interest in engaging the other person in collaborative efforts to create a positive outcome or mutually beneficial solutions. That inspires trust, which is critical to affecting any sort of positive, lasting change.

Second, LISTEN. And I don't just mean hold your tongue and wait until it's finally your turn to speak. Once you ask those questions as suggested above, give the other person a moment to collect their thoughts, organize their ideas, and explain them. Don't interrupt unless you simply need them to repeat something or clarify what they meant by it. At this stage, do not add your commentary, raise challenges, or otherwise jump in with your own perspective.

Then, confirm your understanding of their main points. Don't interpret them with any sort of evaluation or judgmental language. For example, even if you totally disagree with someone on a point, avoid saying something like, “So let me get this straight: You actually think that the moon is made of cheese? Do you expect me to believe that?”

Instead, stick with neutral, objective language at this stage: “Let me make sure I understand correctly: You believe it is made of cheese, is that correct?” Most people will be much more open to hearing your side and engaging in real discussion with you once they feel like they have been heard and understood.

Third, share your perspective diplomatically. When they have confirmed that you understood them, you can share your own perspective. Keep your tone even and matter-of-fact. Try not to get too loud, insistent or emotional, but at the same time be sure to speak with enough energy and intentionality to show that you are truly engaged in the conversation.

Once you understand the other person's perspective, you can frame things much more diplomatically, and in a way that will be more easily understood and accepted. Use something like, “I do appreciate how much effort you have put in, and I agree you deserve the raise, and I truly wish I could give it to you. But right now we just can't because XYZ. Let's look at alternative measures for now and discuss the raise again in six months.”

This shows that you acknowledge their feelings and want to ensure that they feel respected, heard and appreciated. At this point, you have built trusting and trustworthy relationships, which goes for miles, and you can't put a price on that!  Most importantly, you have shown them what is possible, and not only what kind of a leader they are glad to have, but what kind of a leader they aspire to become.

Happy Father's Day!