Communicating effectively is a core tenet of leadership, and it is one of the key characteristics that sets great leaders apart from the rest of the pack. If you lead an organization or a team, putting effort into refining your communication skills will bolster your ability to influence others and drive alignment.
Communication is so much more than just exchanging words. As a leader, you must understand the intentions and emotions behind what it is you are trying to communicate. It is not uncommon for a group of individuals to interpret what is being communicated in several ways. And when that happens—conflict, misunderstandings, and frustration may follow.
What’s Getting in the Way of Effective Communication?
Body language should mimic the intention and emotion behind what is being communicated. In other words, if somebody said “Congratulations,” with a scowl and a posture that signified disinterest—it wouldn’t feel so great. If your body language is disconnected from the message being shared, the listener is going to feel as if you are dishonest. Likewise, pay close attention to the nonverbal cues a listener is giving, as it may allow you an opportunity to spot and offer clearer feedback and information.
A lack of focus can manifest in several ways. The two most common things we see in organizations with communication problems are 1. strategic distractions and 2. physical distractions. Strategic distractions and a lack of focus signify an organization that jumps all over the place. It often feels as if team members are constantly chasing after moving goal posts and can wear down your team. Physical distractions are things like checking your phone or email during a one-on-one. When you are disengaged, you miss opportunities to identify nonverbal cues, and by not dedicating your full attention to a conversation, you are eroding the trust between parties.
Leading with Emotion
Having a strong emotional capacity and using empathy and compassion can have a positive effect on your team and help deepen relationships amongst your team. On the contrary though, emotive leaders can often find themselves in trouble when they have a visceral response and don’t take the time to calm down, get their thoughts in order, and plan a thoughtful response. This type of communication style will often lead to misunderstandings and conflict as emotion and stress can prohibit you from effectively reading your audience. Likewise, you may be sending the wrong physical cues which can not only be off-putting, but confusing for those listening to you.
Tips for Becoming a More Effective Communicator:
Become GREAT at Listening:
Just because you are a leader, doesn’t mean you always need to do all the communicating. It’s important to be silent and take a back seat sometimes. Take in information, take time to digest, and thoughtfully respond in due time. By taking the time to really listen, leaders can develop stronger emotional connections and build trust with their team. Be curious, ask questions—but let the team drive the conversation. You’ll be surprised what you can learn from an active listening perspective.
Oversimplify and be Concise:
The most effective communicators hardly dance around how they feel or what they mean. They just come out and say it. Don’t hide the meaning behind layers of complexity, information, jargon, or other stuff. Just get to the point and make it simple. If you foster a culture of trust, honesty, and autonomy this offers a great opportunity to move faster, as your audience doesn’t have to spend time trying to decipher what it is you are saying and can provide instantaneous feedback.
Context and Conclusions:
In order to resonate, the “why” behind a message must be readily understood. Providing context gives your team an opportunity to feel emboldened and impassioned by your message. Likewise, it’s important that you reaffirm the one key takeaway as clearly as possible, and this makes your message more memorable. If you are communicating effectively, the context and clear takeaway will get buy-in. On the contrary, if you leave your audience guessing what it is you are saying, or if they walk away saying “why would we do that?,” you will erode the trust your audience has in you.
If you’ve mastered the above tips, you’re delivering messages that are simple, concise, clear, easy to understand, and with a clear “why” that makes it memorable. Harping back to “focus” at the top of the page, it’s critical that your communication is consistent and does not stray back and forth. Consistent communication is the key to maintaining the confidence and trust you have built with your team and anything less will have them second guessing how to move forward and what path you are on.
Lead by Example:
If you feel confident in your ability to lead through effective communication—delivering clear, succinct, and logical stories, you now must see and live it through. Credibility is one of the most valuable currencies a leader can have. If you do the opposite of what you say, your team is going to lose all trust in you. Behaviors and actions are an important part of effective communication, so you need to live and lead by example.