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Communication is key to effective leadership

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them." 

To be an effective leader, you must stay involved in what is taking place within your section, flight, or unit. To do this, you must foster an environment of effective communication. These lines of communication are critical to the effective operation of any organization. Organizations that communicate best typically perform best. As a leader it is your responsibility to enhance communication flow within your organization. 

Here are a few ways that can help foster effective communication:

Learn how to listen
Listening is the most neglected part of communication. Eliminate distractions when communicating with others. Rephrase what was said so that you are sure you understand what is being communicated. Ask for clarification if you do not completely understand something.

Make yourself available
The best way to get a feel for issues within your unit is to get out of your work center and seek out the information. The more you make yourself available, the more likely it is that your people will share information with you. Keep conversations brief and productive so you do not hinder the mission accomplishment. Also create an environment where people feel they can bring issues to you. Accept walk-ins when appropriate, if not appropriate, set an appointment at the earliest time available. People within your organization cannot communicate with you if you are not accessible.

Learn how to respond
Everyone communicates differently and as such you must be aware that a conversation can easily become misinterpreted. When responding to a question, make sure the recipient understands the message behind your communication. Have the recipient restate what was said if you are unclear whether or not they understood.

Make sure communication is not wasted
People will continue communication with you as long as they feel that the communication is not lost. Proper and timely feedback is essential to keeping the lines of communication open. Lack of feedback can easily result in an environment where individuals feel their communication is not important and effective communication often ceases.

Provide clear direction
When possible, take the time to provide the 'why' behind what you are directing others to do. Of course this is very dependent on the direction or situation and is not always appropriate. 

Effective communication is a necessity for any organization to perform at capacity. Leaders in particular must ensure they foster an environment where communication is able to flow throughout their organizations. 

Evaluate how information flows throughout your organization; if it needs a bit of help, consider the suggestions above. Your organizations' effectiveness will improve as its communication does.

[Editor's note: Master Sgt. Michael Miller was deployed to Southwest Asia from Offutt.]