Many managers and leaders have opportunities to improve their communication skills. One framework that has helped me to coach for better performance is the triangle of ego, results, and relationships (from my book Elegant Leadership). This is only a high-level framework, and a tiny piece of an entire coaching toolkit for helping people improve their leadership presence and communication, but it is a good place to start when coaching to improve these skills.
The idea of the ego-results-relationships triangle is to balance all three in any high-stakes conversation.
If the professional focuses too much on his or her ego, then his emphasis is on getting credit, looking good, being smart, and being right. It will be hard to get results or build the relationship in a way that works for all parties. A healthy ego is fine, but too much ego throws the process off balance and hurts performance.
Similarly, when the leader focuses too much on the result, he comes across as way too pushy. The relationship suffers. Anyone can get results once, if he is willing to burn bridges. A good coach can show the leader or manager how to balance results with relationships and the needs of his ego.
Finally, when the individual avoids results and puts his ego aside too much in order to preserve the relationship, he comes across as passive. Results don’t happen, because he is afraid to assert appropriately. Paradoxically, the relationship also suffers, because he loses respect when he can’t get results.
We can help leaders and managers improve their ability to influence others by using the ego-results-relationship triangle. Whether we are coaching them, mentoring them – or in the case of leaders using coaching skills with their team – I have found that this framework is a good jumping off point about the principles of effective communication, leadership presence, and influence.