“If you want to lead, first learn how to follow.” – Rick Beneteau
Integrity, passion, innovation, patience, authenticity, and persistence are all examples of qualities that make a great leader. In order to properly display those qualities, you need to know how to communicate.
It has been said that communication is one of the most critical aspects of being a leader. Indeed, communication can be a major challenge that managers face when leading, directing, and interacting with their employees. Some of the most common communication problems that managers report are poor listening skills, talking over others, and the inability to adjust their message to best connect with their staff members.
The ability to effectively communicate with your employees and peers directly affects your effectiveness to coach, delegate, make decisions, properly present ideas, and provide inspiration and transparency to your staff.
In this article, I share a couple of tips and suggestions to assist in improving leadership communication within your company.
“Great communication depends on two simple skills—context, which attunes a leader to the same frequency as his or her audience, and delivery, which allows a leader to phrase messages in a language the audience can understand.” – John Maxwell
Identify the Audience
Knowing and being aware of your audience is the foundation for improving communication. Companies are comprised of people with diverse ages, ethnicities, beliefs, and backgrounds. As a leader, it is important that you are able to adjust to your audience so that your message is easily received and understood. Depending on the individual or group, it may require a little more work than others, but exceptional leaders are able to put forth the extra effort to ensure their employees’ and other audience's needs are taken into consideration and critical messages are shared and understood.
Short and Simple
When communicating, always remember to keep it short and simple. A lot of messages can get lost in translation when overly saturated in terminology. To help prevent this from happening, list the main points you want to convey. This will be your guide to stay on track and not going off on a tangent and losing your audience’s attention. Also, be aware of certain terms or jargon you use to ensure you are communicating in clear, non-ambiguous language.
According to Beth Miller, the number one communication deficit is active listening. Active listening is a communication technique where the listener makes an effort to hear the words and understand the complete message being sent by the other individual. Active listening requires a lot of discipline and active involvement with the speaker. You must focus on whoever is speaking and push aside thoughts or behaviors that interfere with your concentration on the message of the speaker. Asking questions for clarification and summarizing what you’ve heard after the speaker has finished delivering her/his points will help ensure your comprehension of the message.
Active listening is often missing or blocked by distractions, which presents a huge problem within management communications. Leaders who embrace active listening and nurture it within their teams will definitely benefit from improved relationships with their employees and peers. By incorporating the active listening technique, you improve your overall communication, which in turn leads to higher productivity and a happy staff.
Regardless of your current career level, there is always room for improvement. The most successful actors and actresses constantly work to enhance their craft, so why shouldn’t you? There are many ways to practice your communication skills. Consider the following:
- Invest in a certified coach. Board certified coaches are specialized in leadership communication and can assist you with your specific needs.
- Attend a development seminar focused on leadership communication.
- Challenge yourself each week to develop a relationship with each of your employees beyond surface level.
Those in upper-level management can be challenged to find extra time. Between meetings, conference calls, and work trips, it is easy to neglect your team or employees. It is vital to learn how to be present in the moment. Being able to engage with your audience no matter the circumstance expresses to them that you care. Taking time out of your busy day to ask an employee or co-worker about their day or weekend can go a long way. Being personable with your staff creates a relationship aside from business. It promotes transparency and openness and makes it easier for your staff to come to you during critical situations or times of need.
Surely you cannot become a master communicator over night, but every step counts. Taking the initiative in identifying your audience and learning different ways to effectively communicate with them will definitely aid in your growth as a leader. By being present and listening actively, you will be able to display your passion for wanting to get to know your team and understand them on another level. Practicing your communication will promote your determination to become a better leader for your employees and company. Last but not least, relaying your message in a short and less complex way will increase the reception and understanding of the information being communicated.
What techniques or approaches are you using within your organization to develop leadership communication?
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).