To Change Minds, Change Your Conversation

Communication for leaders isn’t as easy as we like to think. It’s far more than just opening your mouth and letting words gush out. Your followers analyze every word, look for nuance, and read between the lines—so they often hear things you never meant! That can spell disaster for your team, if not your company.

Our guest, executive coach Amiel Handelsman, has some proven ways to improve your leadership conversations—like swapping mansplaining with manquiring. He explains more in this episode.

“Just listen.” That tired old trope telling leaders how to better communicate doesn’t cut it anymore. The workplace and its teams have become far more complex: five distinct generations actively working, divisive politics, culture wars, real wars, shrinking talent pools…the list goes on.

Amiel has keenly discerned eleven skills and concepts most crucial for leaders to effectively communicate in our diverse workplaces. Here are five that stood out to us as particularly transformative or unexpected.

1. Inquire or Manquire

Inquiring moves you beyond the old-school stereotype of the leader who knows everything. If you’re prone to over-explaining in a condescending manner or assuming that a person has no knowledge of a subject, you may be mansplaining (or an offshoot thereof). Combat mansplaining with its foil: manquiring (man + inquiring). Though the concepts are directed at a specific gender group, the practice of inquiry is useful for anyone. Inquiring is the act of intentionally asking questions to better understand what someone is communicating to you. Assume from the get-go that you don’t know it all. Go to your team and ask what they know. This stance of curiosity fills your knowledge gaps while letting your team know they are heard and valued. It boosts two-way communication and navigates unconscious bias in the process.

2. Confirm and Clarify

Now that you have all that new information, make sure you understand it. Simple misunderstandings derail even the most fortified plans. Paraphrase what you heard (or read) from a teammate and relay that back to them. Tell them what you think the ramifications of their points are. This creates a great feedback loop. In the end, it boosts efficiency because everyone is clearly on the same page with the same goals and mission in mind.

3. Be a Conversational Chameleon

No two people communicate exactly alike. Some people read between the lines instead of paying attention to your words; others demand exacting accuracy in your vocabulary and take every word literally. It’s up to you as the leader to learn how each team member understands you best and to further adapt your communication style to the context and the medium. Cultivate your own conversational agility so your unique voice and intent come through no matter who you’re speaking with.

4. When You Assume, It Makes an…

It’s natural to assess someone, or what they say, on the fly. But these subjective judgments you make in the moment can be influenced by little things that have nothing to do with the conversation: something as big as having an accident on the way to work, or as small as garlic on their breath after lunch. During the conversation itself, pause before reacting; be certain you’re reacting to what you’ve just heard rather than leftover emotions from something else. Afterward, reassess, and see if your assessment aligns with concrete evidence, observable facts, and a clean rationale.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

We all learn to communicate at some level from the moment we are born. Our communication gets a bit more specific as we grow because we constantly practice and tweak as we learn what gets better results. This shouldn’t stop just because we reach adulthood! Even the most gifted athletes practice relentlessly to hone their performance; practicing is perfect for your communications, too. Play with different writing styles, speak in front of a mirror, and be aware of your body language—all of these hone your messaging. And just as you paraphrase what you hear from others (remember #2?), ask people to paraphrase your words so you receive feedback, too.

Trendy leadership advice focuses so much on listening to your team that we forget effective communication is a two-way process. Amiel’s tips are a potent reminder to work on that circular flow. The best leaders do more than listen; they are also heard!


This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from our podcast episode Cultivating Conversation: How to Improve Leaders’ Communication.

Thank you for reading our newsletter, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

We strive to elevate the quality of leadership worldwide. Are you ready? If you are looking for help developing your leaders, explore our services.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.