The corporate world is busy. The word “busy” is vague for some people, so allow me to clarify. The corporate world is fast-paced, competitive, and can be overwhelming. Raising kids is the same sort of “busy.” As a mother, I fantasize about that life where I wake up in the morning, kiss my children good morning, drive them to school, attend all parent-teacher meetings, attend all sports games, and never miss homework. At the same time, I visualize my work going smoothly, attending all client meetings, hitting all deadlines, winning projects, and growing at an accelerated pace. Well, reality looks different than those visualizations. The truth is that I’ve missed many parent-teacher meetings, missed sports games, turned up late to client meetings, and done things on a last-minute basis. That idea of perfecting all the roles I carry hasn’t worked out quite well.
At Lyawere, one of our core values is effective communication. In a busy world, effective communication can be tricky to navigate. When a colleague asks me a question while I am working, do I practice the woman’s power of multitasking by listening while I work or pause and listen? Or when my kids are telling me about their day, do I cook as I listen, or do I stop and look at them as they share their jolly afternoon ordeals? Challenging. When I first joined Lyawere and was introduced to “effective communication” as a value, I understood it as “speak, listen, be heard, etc.”.
However, I understood this value differently in my recent struggle with work-life balance, which many can resonate with. Let me give you context on this. A month ago, I had prepared what I believed was a perfect getaway for myself and the kids to a fun beach with ice cream and lots of sand for building castles. I felt fulfilled and happy during the whole drive to the beach. We got to the beach, and I was already prepping for the chaos from all the excitement. It turns out my kids wanted to swing. The whole time at the beach, all they could think of was the swing. They were happy at the beach but not ecstatic, which is what I wanted for them. I drove home disappointed. What happened?
Here’s what happened. The whole week before the beach outing, they kept asking to “go out,” and I heard them. What they meant, though, is that they wanted to “go swinging.” Humbly speaking, I could not know they wanted to go swinging simply by listening. If I had prompted more, however, I would have known. The point here is that effective communication isn’t merely about listening attentively because some things are not necessarily spoken out loud. They could be implied implicitly/explicitly or understood by analyzing the context, or digging deeper. For example, when Lyawere initiated the campaign to send happy birthday wishes to staff, clients, and all stakeholders, it wasn’t because the clients or staff asked for it, but because the company recognized the gesture brings a smile to one’s day. The appreciation and care go a long way.
The idea here is to not make assumptions and run with them. As a company, effective communication means using the information we have to analyze the situation and create various pathways to the goal. If you are a progressive person like me and want to know how you can begin your journey to effective communication, here are my top five books that I recommend.
Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease
Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond by Jay Sullivan
What Every BODY is Saying by Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins
Practicing effective communication as a value has upgraded my life as a colleague and mother. I now try to listen, dig, and apply context before making conclusions. For those who are curious, we did go swinging with my kids eventually. Oh- it was a great joy!
As we navigate the work-life imbalance, effective communication is a great tool. If you are still curious about motherhood while pursuing a career, here is a great read, How I Negotiated With My Husband to Start a Family Without Sacrificing My Career, by Saskia Ketz.
By Caroline – TLL (Today Lyawere Learns) Reflection Lyawere Group