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 Improve or Develop Advanced Communication Skills

Effective Communication for Leaders:  Take the "Reflection Challenge"  

Physician executives, entrepreneurs, managers and emerging leaders---lend me your ears!

Can you stop talking, evaluating and judging long enough to listen to someone else? Most of us have a hard time taking in information.  Yet, listening for meaning---taking in information in order to ultimately create something or make something happen---is the essence of business, leadership, and management.

As physician executives, we believe we have extraordinary listening skills because we have been listening to patients for many years in the process of diagnosing and treating.  However, our training and bias as physicians to a) evaluate and b) come to conclusions in the short period of time that a patient visit affords, can be the undoing of us in a leadership role.  The tendency to evaluate is actually a barrier to communication.  This concept is well developed in the classic article by Carl Rogers and F J Roethlisberger, "Barriers and Gateways to Communication" (Harvard Business Review, November-December 1991).  The gateway to communication, then, is to listen for understanding.  To understand someone else is to truly take into account their perspective, their motivations, and their needs.  Only then can you both move forward to build a solution, a path, a committed partnership.

But let's get out of the conceptual mode now.  Are you up for a challenge? To build your skills in effective communication, I want you to practice ONE behavior for ONE day:  Reflection.

How does Reflection Challenge work? 

When:  For one whole day, no matter what situation you find yourself in---in the morning with your spouse and children, during the day with your staff, in the evening with friends and colleagues.

What:  Every opportunity you can, when someone communicates to you, you will Reflect to that person what you heard.  You must reflect OUT LOUD to them.  Thinking about what you heard them say or thinking you understood doesn't count.  Here are some phrases you can use:

  • What I'm hearing is that you  . . . want to . . .

  • What I'm hearing is that you are experiencing some . . . . .

  • Let me see if I understand . . . . you are saying that . . . .

  • Did I capture the essence of what you said?

  • It sounds like . . . . Is that accurate?

Why:  Reflecting is a core competency in effective listening.  It bridges the gap between individual perspectives, leads to clarity and the sense of "being heard." 


What is so hard about reflecting?  For many of us, we fear that reflecting will imply agreement with the other person.  Or we fear our own views will not be heard or may be minimized.  But just the opposite will occur when you reflect in the process of conversation, meetings and discussions. Barriers drop and both sides are heard.  Trust me, this is one of the most powerful techniques in leadership and management I have ever experienced personally.

I am requesting that all of you to take this listening challenge at least one day in June. Send me a quick email of how the day went for you and I will share these in the next newsletter.  Go for it!

Francine R. Gaillour, MD, Business Consultant and Executive Coach for Healthcare Leaders francine@physicianleadership.com, (206) 686-4205



Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE
15600 NE 8th Street, Suite B1-173
Bellevue, WA  98008
(206) 686-4205

Francine R. Gaillour, MD   2006 Ki Health, Inc.