Effective communication in leading

On this site, communication in leading and work is investigated. In the beginning, the general basics of communication are explained. Several communication models are  added for understanding the role of communication in society and work. In the end, effective communication for executives is described.

Communication basics

Communication is a tool to bring information from one entity to another. Human communication is the interaction between at least two people and can be based on different ways of communication.

We can distinguish here three parts of communcation:

  1. The medium of communication
  2. the meaning of the information
  3. the behaviour while communicating

The mix of these three items can make an information change its meaning.

Let us assume you communicate “I love eating fish”.  You can use body language to change the information and show intentially that, in fact, you hate fish. E.g. this can be done by overreacting in an unnatural way. However, in a restaurant you can just state the words neutrally and order your meal, actually showing that you like fish.  As executive, you have to make sure that the communication is integrated and understood. To understand how effective communcation can be achieved, we have to go a bit abstract and use a model to learn how to deliver messages in a better way.

Communication model of the four sides

Considering a communication between two persons, we can think of each step of communication as one of the persons being sender and receiver. The sender is giving a message, the receiver is getting a message. The message is considered as information but can have certrain attributes attached that can influence the meaning of the information. E.g. in sarcasm, the information can be in fact opposite to the reality but having an understanding of sarcasm turns the fact into its opposite. Stating “It is a wonderful day” when it is raining cat and dogs, plays more on a certain appeal or self-revelation, mainly to be dissatisfied with the circumstances.

Mr. von Thun analysed messages and came up with a message model having four sides: Self-revelation while giving the message, the relationship between sender and receiver, the appeal of the message and the facual information. 

Thun's model of the four sides
Thun’s model of the four sides


The model allows to analyse messages concerning their metacommunication. It is possible to understand whether a message is considered to be complete. Thus, a person can reflect its own style of communcation though it is easier to judge it by a third party. It allows to train a method of effective communication.

Rules for effective communication in leading

We consider here effective communication in the sense of business and work related environment. Still, the methods can be applied in other circumstanzes, as well. Effective communication is part of the cooperative communication and shows a way of how to lead by language. However, both employer and employee should use this method.

  1. Concentrate your communication on Factual Information.
  2. Try to reveal a common understanding of the facts.
  3. Focus on an appeal for work goal orientation.
  4. Relate yourself into the given information.

All these rules imply a certain feedback. Direct orders without questions are not accepted in this model because it is not clear whether all persons have a common understanding, are related to the goal of the message and relate to the given information.

Let us investigate this on an example: The executive says to the accounting employee “Please check your part of the statement numbers from last year.” Though the order inself is factual clear, it is not clear what the other three parts of the message might be. This leaves room for speculation and can upset the employee. Question can arise like “Did I not do a good job?” or “Is he unsatisfied?” 

Thus, Senior executives tend to ask in the end of a statement “Do we have a common understanding? Do you have questions?”. They want to underline not just a factual side of the message but also the intention and why they want you to do something. They give space to feedback and expect you to use it. Do not be shy.

This type of communication is called cooperative and is one of the keystones of modern leadership. Members of generation Y and Z expect to have a meaning behind their dos and donts. Ultimately, a meaningful communication between two persons fulfills this demand with ease.