In the episode, I consider two different issues around communication skills. The first is communicating across cultural boundaries.  The second is the technique of asking questions to boost leadership. One of the things most critical issues to a compliance function is breaking through a company’s internal cultural boundaries. In an article by Erin Meyer, entitled, “Getting to Si, Ja, Oui, Hai and Da; How to negotiate across cultures”, she explained that “managers often discover that perfectly rational deals fall apart when their [business] counterparts make what seem to be unreasonable demands or don’t respect their commitments.” She laid out a five-point solution for communicating across a multi-national organization.

Initially look for as many cultural bridges as you can find as it will help you understand what your international audience is communicating to you, in both verbal and non-verbal formats, during a wide variety of activities familiar to any compliance professional such as training, investigations or simple meetings where the compliance perspective must be articulated in any business setting. If you fail to have an understanding or even a person who can navigate these signs for you, here are five steps to help you out: (1) Adapt the way you express disagreement; (2) Know when to bottle it up and let it all pour out; (3) Learn how the other culture builds trust; (4) Avoid yes or no questions; and (5) Be careful about putting it in writing.

Asking Questions

Other than the skill of listening, asking questions is about as important to the business leader as any other that can be employed. Yet, equally critical is to ask the right question, which is an issue explored Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman explored this concept in their book “From a Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life”.

Grazer is a well-known and successful Hollywood director who has directed such movies as Splash, A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man. He believes that much of the success he has achieved is because he asks lots of questions. Indeed, the authors write, “Questions are a great management tool.” This is because “Asking questions elicits information” and it also “creates the space for people to raise issues they are worried about that a boss, or colleagues, may not know about.” Further, by asking questions, you allow “people to tell a different story than the one you’re expecting.” Finally, and perhaps most significantly, they said, “Most important from my perspective, asking questions means people have to make their case for the way they want a decision to go.”

Getting your employees to not simply talk to you but tell you the truth about how they feel or what they may be thinking is a key skill for any leader. Ask open-ended questions so you will not receive back a simple Yes/No answer. Some key foundational questions include, “What are you focused on? Why are you focused on that? What are you worried about? What is your plan?” By asking these or other questions, such as “What are you hoping for? What are you expecting? What’s the most important part of this for you?” as a CEO, you can get much more engagement from the people with whom you work.

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