What is the most important skill for leaders to develop? According to numerous studies, it’s leadership communication. A study by Ken Blanchard’s company indicates that 43% of leaders believe that communication is their most important skill, and 41% say their most significant mistakes as leaders arose as a result of miscommunication.
Effective leadership communication is so important because it is at the heart of nearly every leadership activity. From conveying your vision and giving clear direction, to motivating, inspiring and connecting with others.
Leadership communication is a key skill, but few truly master this subtle art. The following three strategies can help you to improve your communication and increase your efficiency and effectiveness.
Plan Your Message and Focus on Your Delivery
Effective communication doesn’t happen by accident. If you want your communications to be understood, and well received, it takes care and effort. First, you should decide on what it is that you want to say, how you will say it and decide on which form of communication will work best to get your message across.
For example, if you have a serious, or personal, message to convey, it’s usually best to communicate in person, or over the telephone, rather than by email. If your message will have a lot of details, you may want to send out a preview via email so that others have something to refer back to. Then follow up by having meetings with smaller groups of your people so that others feel free to ask questions and give feedback.
Regardless of which form of communication that you choose, make certain that you clarify the purpose of your communication early on. Choose your words carefully; anticipate what you believe will be the thoughts, feelings and reactions of others and show empathy and concern for others as appropriate.
Your message should be clear, and delivered with enthusiasm and passion. When possible your communications should always be related to or reinforce your mission and larger goals.
Within your communication, clearly identify what actions or steps will be taken as a result. Actively seek the comments, questions and feedback of others to make certain that your message was received as you intended it to be.
Be Aware of Roadblocks to Effective Communication – And Take Action to Eliminate Them!
Many leaders are great at giving speeches but fail at communication because of various self-imposed roadblocks that sabotage their performance. Communication is not just speaking “at” others, and delivering your message; it is a two-way street. Conversation requires action on the part of all parties involved – both the speaker and those that are listening. To be an effective communicator, leaders must be engaged with others and must be as open to listening to others as they are to speaking.
If you want others to really tune in to what you are saying, show them that same respect. Invite others to ask questions when you are speaking with them, and be certain that your people feel safe and secure enough to join in the conversation.
When someone does ask questions or gives you feedback, don’t assume that you know what they are going to say before they begin to speak. Don’t “jump ahead” in your mind and begin to prepare your response, but truly think about what the speaker is saying. Wait until the speaker has finished, and make certain that you understand their message before you begin to develop your response.
Focus on others as they speak and actively listen, with an open mind, to the thoughts and opinions of others. Once someone finishes speaking, ask clarifying questions to make certain that you understand what was said, as well as to indicate your respect for the speaker’s feelings and point of view.
Polish Up Your Listening Skills
Another way to eliminate roadblocks and reduce miscommunication, is to use your active listening skills to receive and understand the emotions that are behind a speaker’s choice of words. Whether it’s out of fear, a desire to persuade, or even an attempt to deflect the truth, many of us gloss over our actual meaning, and feelings, with our word choices. So, in addition to the actual words that are used, pay attention to the speaker’s body language, and other cues, to discern the true emotions and motivations behind the words that are spoken.
Keep these same tips in mind when you are speaking with others. Be careful with the words that you choose, as well as the body language that you use, while speaking. Show respect to yourself and others and make certain that your actions match your words and that you remain honest, authentic and genuine.
As you reduce and eliminate these roadblocks to communication, you will find that your connections and relationships with others will improve, along with your communication, helping you to build a stronger, more open, creative and flexible work environment.
Does Your Leadership Communication Measure Up?
If you really want to improve leadership communication within your organisation and with others and clear out the roadblocks, it’s a good idea to periodically review the performance of your messages and other communications. Reflect on your conversations and on ways you could have improved your delivery. Make a note of the steps you could have taken to make your message clearer and easier to understand. Take action and correct these mistakes by using what you’ve learned to improve your future communications.
If upon reflection, you find that your message was misunderstood, take action immediately to correct misimpressions. This is an especially important step to take if you find that you have misstated the facts or if you discover that your choice of words or delivery has caused miscommunication and led others to feel hurt or offended.
Great leaders use leadership communication to build trust and mutual respect in their people and help them feel safe so that they are empowered to take risks and create things that are new and unique.