An important leadership quality is effective communication. Today’s leaders compete with shrinking attention spans and impatient employees. Good communication is not about what you say; it is about what the listener hears. Effective communication can inspire, persuade and lead the people important to your success.
The following are some guidelines for good communication:
1. Establish a social connection. Communication involves more than the content of the statements you make. If you focus primarily on your information you may be viewed as arrogant and uncaring. Leaders are perceived by others to be competent when they establish a social connection when communicating. Build trust and respect among colleagues by showing interest and concern in things that are important to them.
2. Understand your audience. Everyone understands better when they hear their own language, not yours. You should speak differently depending upon your audience. For example, your language should be very different depending upon whether your listener is a member of your board of directors, an employee or a child. Leaders must know how and when to alter their style and tailor it to the individual. Misunderstandings are one of the most common ways to damage relationships. Assumptions about the words and actions of others are fairly common in most workplaces. Rephrase using different words, if the person does not understand.
3. Repeat your key messages. Learn positive and even subtle ways to remind colleagues of important tasks, meetings and deadlines. Key messages should be repeated in a variety of communications such as verbal and written. When asked a question, take the opportunity to repeat a key message if appropriate. This demonstrates commitment and gives the listener what you want them to take away.
4. Tell stories. A good story can make a complex concept easily remembered and shared. Learn to shape your strategy and objectives into memorable stories that inspire others.
5. Lead by example. If a leader sets high standards for employees but does not personally live up to them, the employees will soon abandon those standards. It is important for you to live your own example; only then others will follow.
6. Be honest. If you exhibit behavior inconsistent with your statements, be honest and explain yourself. For example, if you give a directive to cut spending and then spend money you can explain openly and honestly that you spent some money now to save more in the long-run. Be prepared to listen with an open mind to suggestions. If there is not a legitimate reason for your inconsistent behavior, consider changing it immediately.
7. Listen to the feedback. Once you explain something, listen to the feedback. A good leader will listen and investigate negative feedback rather than becoming defensive or dismissing it. Ask probing, but non-threatening, questions. Listen to the response to your question and affirm it or follow up with additional questions rather than interrupting or making your own points when the person is finished speaking. Listen to silence; silence allows someone to think about what is being discussed or formulate a response.
8. Make a good first impression. Choose your first words carefully when you begin communicating something new. If your language is imprecise from the beginning there may be long-term misunderstandings and your commitment may be challenged.
9. Attitude is important. Your attitude will set the tone for implementing the new idea. Your enthusiastic and positive attitude will set the tone for others. Encourage and reassure. Use humor where appropriate.
10. Body Language is important. Body language, eye contact and voice inflection can send signals to people that are often unintended. For example, asking someone how he or she is doing in a monotone voice with poor eye contact will probably not encourage a very positive response or leave a positive impression. Also, looking at the clock or tapping your pencil on the desk during a meeting may give employees the impression that you are not interested in their work or in them. Good eye contact and voice inflection that fits the situation can improve the impression people have of you in the workplace.
Effective communicators build positive relationships with those who can impact their ability to succeed and show people that their issues and concerns are important. Effective communication skills translate into being effective in the workplace.