Communication: A Most Important Tool
Effective speaking is one of the best tools a leader can have. Speaking effectively is your ability to express yourself with confidence and clarity. Nothing makes more impact on your overall presentation as a passionate and powerful leader. As you present your ideas in an interesting and persuasive manner, you project your enthusiasm and passion to generate interest and commitment your listeners, inspire those you lead and make it easy for them to support the vision, and you build confidence, so others believe in themselves.The one vital cord that ties all the functions of leadership together and the most important key to great leadership is clear communication. Poor communications are a huge roadblock to maximizing success. A central part of communication is relationship. Steve Hashem, retired military leader, says, “If you have a relationship with someone, you can solve any problem. If you don’t have a relationship with them, everything is a problem. Communication is a job that is never done. It starts right after you take over a new leadership position when you describe your leadership philosophy and priorities and goals for the organization and continues throughout the duration of your assignment with new information and changes and updates about which your people need to be made aware. No matter how well you think you are communicating, you can never do enough, and you have to keep pouring on the effort and communication.”Bottom line, clear communication is key to a leader’s success. You must learn to be an effective, compelling communicator. Regardless of what field in which they lead, whether you are talking about business, politics, sports, or the military, the best leaders are effective communicators. Their values are clear and solid and what they say promotes those values. Their teams admire them and follow their lead. The best leaders motivate and inspire their people through clear communication. In fact, it is impossible to be a great leader without being a great communicator.The problem is, communication is rarely what is taught in school. In the classroom we are trained to focus on enunciation, vocabulary, presence, delivery, grammar, etc. In other words, we are taught to focus on ourselves. While those things are important, It’s the elements that focus on others that leaders desperately need to learn.Most leaders spend the overwhelming majority of their time each day in some type of an interpersonal situation. Interestingly, the largest number of organizational chaos occurs as a result of poor communications. Getting our communication skills together is vital.Here are some simple suggestions for maximizing your communication.Know yourself. All good communication starts here. When you’re communicating with other people, you need to be aware of your inner monologue, so you don’t end up taking out a bad mood on someone else, assuming the other person can read your mind, being discriminatory, appearing unconfident and so on. It’s also important to know what your target is, so you can handle your communication is targeted accordingly.Know your audience. If the audience is not tuned into you and your subject, it’s hopeless. Knowing your audience’s motivations, preferred communication styles, learning styles, etc., allows you to adapt your message and increase the odds of effective communication. When you work hard at making a personal connection, people identify with you and they begin to trust you.Be clear-cut. Direct, specific and clear communication increases the chances that people will comprehend and actually do what you are asking them. It’s better to over-do than under-do the explanation. Simple, actionable instructions given in a friendly, open way makes you approachable, and the mission achievable. Make sure you don’t conclude a conversation until you are sure the other person understands what you have shared.Notice what your nonverbal communication is saying. Facial expressions, hand gestures, posture, eye contact – all these either affirm or undermine your message. Research says the nonverbal communication may be actually stronger than verbal. Does your body language underscore what you are saying, or does it undermine?Concentrate on listening more than you speak. Model active listening. When someone else is speaking, really focus on them and listen to what they’re saying. Ask follow-up questions. They demonstrate that you are paying attention, and they clear up any unintended miscommunications. Don’t be defensive or have knee jerk reactions.Be positive and respectful. Making sure you are transparent, fair, and respectful cultivates loyalty and makes the entire team work better. Coercion and fear are poor motivators. Big egos destroy loyalty. Being a cheerleader when you communicate helps people concentrate, identify, and even helps creativity grow.Clearly, these skills won’t be mastered overnight. It won’t happen a day or even a year. Anyone who wants to be a great leader will need to commit to growth over a lifetime. The more you implement these skills, the more they will become second nature. Your leadership will blossom and grow, and you will become one of those effective leaders.