Being an effective communicator is arguably a leader’s greatest skill. It is also essential for anybody dealing with clients, customers, or co-workers—in other words, just about every working person. Good communicators have the power to inform, inspire, and create trust.
Here are some tips to improve your communication skills:
- Know your audience – What information does your audience need? What are their expectations? Clearly understanding this allows you to adapt your message accordingly and present the most relevant points. In the Twelve Absolutes of Leadership, Gary Burnison offers this advice: “before you speak, make sure you listen and observe; knowing your audience is as important as the message you’re delivering.”
- Be clear and concise – Don’t muddy your communications with ambiguity or an abundance of detail. Be specific and know what you’re talking about. Mike Myatt reminds us in “10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders” that time is a precious commodity, which makes it critical for leaders to “learn how to cut to the chase and hit the high points.”
- Listen – Communication isn’t a one-way street. Listen to your audience—what they’re saying and what they’re not Effective communication isn’t just conveying information; it’s having a significant conversation with your audience. Also, be aware of your audience’s body language and other non-verbal communication.
- Be personal – Today, leaders need to reveal something of themselves. People want to be able to relate to you, so be yourself! Personal, engaging, and empathetic exchanges of information lead to effective communication. The Young Entrepreneurs Council recommends using language that’s distinctly yours and not overly specific to the corporate environment.
- Repeat – We’re constantly bombarded with messages, and it’s impossible to retain them all. Emphasize the important information you want people to remember. Repeat your key points and repeat them again—your audience will thank you.
According to Mike Myatt, great leaders talk about their ideas in ways that speak to their audience’s emotions and aspirations. They realize if their message doesn’t take deep root with the audience then it likely won’t be understood, much less championed.
Some of his principles of excellent communication are:
- Others before self – You’ll learn far more by intensely focusing on the other party’s wants and needs, than by focusing on your own agenda.
- Speak not with forked tongue – People won’t open up to those they don’t trust. When people sense a leader is worthy of their trust, they’ll invest time and take risks.
- Have an open mind – Seek out those with dissenting opinions and opposing positions—not to convince them to change their minds, but to understand what’s on their mind. This will challenge you, helping you to stretch and develop.
Members of the Young Entrepreneurial Council contributed to 14 best practices for more effective leadership communication. Here are a few:
- Be relatable – It’s easier to communicate effectively if you know your team or employees as individuals. The lower your pedestal, the more they’ll rally around you.
- Find your own voice – People respect authenticity and they’re more willing to follow real leaders, not corporate puppets. Speak with your own voice.
- Respond in a timely manner – Do your best to be responsive to everyone, whether it is an employee, vendor, or prospect.
Of course, you will need to adapt your communication to the context. You would use the tips presented here differently if you are speaking with a colleague one-on-one, rather than in front of a larger group.
Effective communication is a skill all great leaders share, and thankfully it is a skill that can be learned, honed, and mastered.
If you would like help enhancing your communication, 4Forward can tailor the right approach for you and your team.