Academy Spotlight: Jim Boneau – Interpersonal Communication
Tell us about yourself:
I have a passion for working with people. My approach is all about challenging leaders to renew their individual leadership beliefs and engage in meaningful dialog with their colleagues, effectively turning those beliefs into actions that increase performance and create positive work environments. I work directly with teams and leaders to strengthen their ability to effectively communicate strategy, build bonds of trust, and cascade the organization’s values and vision with their teams, partners and customers.
What was the focus of this Module?
At the core, it is about improving how we communicate with others. To start, it’s important to understand the communication gap – the internal filters and unconscious biases that influence our communication. Developing relational awareness is also essential to understanding the different perspectives at play in every communication. Empathy, courage and resilience are central to our ability to communicate as leaders, as is being clear about our intention. Building out from there, we were also able explore a range of best practices for communication in different contexts.
What was the biggest take-away for the Fellows?
I believe the Empathy exercise was the high point and culmination of all the content, activities and conversations. Technically, the Fellows were able to practice all aspects of the Relational Awareness Model: sharing points of view, asking curious questions, and - through listening - “make meaning” of the experience of the other person. However, something happened beyond the technical aspects of asking and telling: heart to heart connection. It looks different for everyone, but when we stop to consider the other person, it allows our heart to catch up with our fast-moving head and see the human being with whom we are talking. The Fellows had that experience and, as a result, rang a bell that can never be un-rung.
What goals do you hope Fellows will set as a result of this Module?
I hope the Fellows will pursue opportunities to connect with the people they lead at a level beyond their current 'Open' Johari Window. I hope each Fellow will also identify at least three stakeholders with whom they can use curiosity to learn the other's perspective.
And lastly, I hope they will differentiate themselves in their preparation and facilitation by sharing their intentions and other learnings from this Module.
From your experience with similar development programs, what sets this program apart?
I have served on several faculty groups for leadership development programs for both non-profit and for-profit leaders for over 10 years. There are several things that set this program apart. First, the level of engagement and desire for learning on the part of the Fellows is tremendous. When a group is truly committed to learning, I can challenge, push and facilitate the session to the edge of their learning, which is where they grow the most. The Module content is also adapted to the experience, willingness and skill level of the Fellows when it comes to connecting with others one on one, beyond legal jargon. Equally important, Ona Dosunmu was the ideal partner and subject-matter expert for our session. Ona's expertise as an in-house counsel leader, as well as her ability to listen and observe the participants’ interactions allowed her to provide insightful, relevant, and valuable commentary. She connected the dots from the content to the world of an in-house counsel.
What were the biggest highlights and take-aways for you?
While I was asked to contribute and share my perspective as an in-house counsel leader, I believe I learned more than I gave through my participation in this session. At the core, you cannot discount how important interpersonal relationships and communication are to being a successful General Counsel. Active listening and paraphrasing/asking others to paraphrase back to us are invaluable management and communication tools. As lawyers, we often listen to respond. Changing gears, and really listening to understand is critical to improving our communications with others. I also learned the value and importance of having my own set of personal stories to draw on and share in my professional communications.
Even in the legal environment where reason rules, you cannot take the emotion out of communication. It is scientifically impossible. There is an emotional component inherent in all communication, understanding and working constructively with it is essential. Each of us needs to think about our own filters and the filters through which our communications are heard by others.
Intention matters, both in high-stakes settings and in our day-to-day communications. It's important to take time to reflect on our intention and to be explicit about it. You cannot assume that others "get" your intention.
Finally, building relationships inside and outside of legal is important and it takes time. Carve out the time to listen and be empathetic. It is affirming for all of us, and ultimately can help build the confidence of others, including members of your team.