Updated: Jan 12, 2021
“Truly effective communication is that dynamic between humans that is emotional, yet rational. The biggest gift I have received from honing my communication skills all of these years is the ability to authentically connect in a unique way with everyone I work with; which in turn, allows me to model this while I work with each team.”
Lindsay Miller is a Lead Consultant at Reverie Organizational Development Specialists. She has been a student of communication throughout her 25-year career without realizing or owning it at times. She took on her first management role as a teenager and has continued to push her career growth through education and personal development every chance she gets. Her intention behind partnering to form Reverie is to serve as a resource to other business owners by sharing her experience and education. Her approach to partnership is meeting her clients where they need her to be, and then delicately driving them to enhance their communication skills and delivery; whether that means identifying why they say it, changing the way they say it, or adding new channels to how they say it.
Q. Communication seems to be a big theme for you. When did you stand out as being a strong communicator?
A. Communication is just like any other practice - you have good days and bad. In order to improve it must be a focus and commitment. Truthfully, I still feel like I have a lot to learn!
With that said, communication has always been a huge part of my total person, and until recently, has resided in the shadows of other skills I perceived as taking priority in importance. As a very young child, I would make my sister recite the A, B, C’s over and over, and I was the meanest speech therapist at 5 years old, correcting kids as they explored language and pronunciation. It may have been a foreshadow of my lifelong career in communication, or my perfectionism, it is hard to say.
On a serious note, I have always been into interpersonal communication, and I had a strong sense of how important it is, but I don’t think I recognized it as a skillset worth developing at that young age. That mindset actually continued into my adult world. I have never really liked to own communication as a strength. It felt like a regular human behavior that we are all hardwired to do. I was always much more focused on the hard skills because those are measurable, and I am drawn to measurement. The funny part about all of it is that even when I was focused on other aspects of my career growth, I was teaching a bevy of undergraduate communications courses for several years on the side.
Q. Oh, that is too good. So you did not realize that your communication skills stood out, but you were teaching that subject matter to college students?
A. Okay, that is funny. Yes, I taught Communication in the Workplace, which was a sociology course, Interpersonal Communication, Public Speaking, and a few others. It was one of my absolute favorite passion projects. A past student of mine shared with me that she used some of the lessons I had taught in public speaking to write and deliver her brother’s eulogy. I had simply shared my experiences with delivering highly sensitive messages to crowds, along with some tips and tricks to stave off the emotion. Finding out that I had provided a tool to help someone get through a difficult time was one of those big life experiences that had an impact on the direction of my career.
Q. I didn’t realize there were so many different types of communication courses. How do you use that experience with your clients now?
A. When we hear the word, “communication,” we only think of talking - we fail to remember that it also includes listening, storytelling, phrasing, goal setting, writing, body language...I could keep going, but I won’t.
Having clear communication is the only way that a company is going to hit the goals they set out to achieve. A lot of times, people don’t realize how much power lies in communication and the connection between people. I get to provide that experience of connection to help show them how much it impacts the energy of the culture and company - it is my absolute favorite. That is three-dimensional communication - emotional, yet rational. The biggest gift I have received from honing my communication skills all of these years is the ability to authentically connect in a unique way with everyone I work with; which in turn, allows me to model this while I work with each team. I love to bring that out in people and show them that their ability to communicate at their truest level will have a huge impact on the bottom line and the net outcome.
Q. Can we dig into that a little bit more? You connect communication to the bottom line, and that is something you work on with business owners?
A. Correct, and I can usually tell within the first 15 minutes of observating them how likely they are to make the necessary adjustments, and in turn, how likely they are to succeed. I learn a lot from watching how people speak to each other, how well they listen, how open they are to feedback, their ability to accept responsibility for mishaps, and how quickly they jump to action when change is needed. Another big one is how they are being led. I also get a very quick read on what makes them amazing and unique, what needs to be celebrated, and what likely needs to change.
Q. Do you observe each person and evaluate whether they should remain on the team, or jump into another role?
A. Thank you, no. I need to point out that I am evaluating the organization, not the individuals. There are several things I do to drive individual peak performance along the way, but not in a punitive or obvious way.
There is always individual communication that takes place, but every one of those individuals contributes to the overall organizational communication as a whole - which is the language of the brand; what you are putting out into the world. It determines how consumers will feel when they interact with your brand. It could not be more important.
If the communication of that brand is not in alignment or is disjointed, inauthentic, or stifled - those are all things that will prevent a company from having a solid outcome at the end of the year when evaluating the bottom-line performance.
Q. Knowing all of this, what advice would you give to a business owner reading this right now?
A. Figure out what you are personally doing to hold your company back. Oftentimes it can be difficult to evaluate because the hold back action is masked as a sensible behavior. Check yourself for anything that might resemble preventative, precaution, control, etc. and closely examine whether you are doing right by your company, or keeping it so safe that you are keeping it too safe. For example, if you can say, “I am protecting X by doing Y,” that is something to dig into a bit more. Usually, it is due to a lack of information, reporting, or a skill gap.
The result will have a major impact on communication, and the way you are interacting with the team and the customers. There is a price associated with these types of behaviors, not to mention, they can usually be fixed fairly easily with access to resources, improved systems, or updated processes.
Q. As a business owner yourself, is there anything you are focusing on to drive positive outcomes?
A. Let’s hope so! Look, I have a lot of formal training and education, but nothing prepares you for the twists and turns of business the way experience does. I can tell you with absolute certainty that I wake up excited about the work I am doing because of the people I get to work with. I simply have a love for business and the complexity of maintaining a high-performance organization from the inside out. I obviously feel that way about Reverie, too. Organizational health and well-being is a continuous practice much like communication. It is not a one and done mastery type of thing. Every growth outcome that is hit will create new challenges. I do my best to anticipate necessary changes and act quickly when reactive measures are needed. At the end of the day, we are all just doing the best we can to work hard and be kind, and that is more than enough.