Some of the most effective leaders of our time all have one trait in common – They’re excellent communicators. They know how to use their words to convey their ideas and inspire others to work together towards a common goal.
Communication and leadership are closely intertwined. It’s impossible to have one without the other. A leader’s degree of success in any endeavour then is directly tied to his or her ability to communicate. Other management functions like planning, organising, and staffing are certainly important too. But communication is the thread that ties them all together.
Whether you manage a sales intensive team or are working up the corporate ladder, you must be able to communicate in a clear and concise manner to reach new benchmarks. Of course, it’s easier said than done. The good news is that communication is a skill that can be learned.
Here we’ll look at how you can be a more effective leader through communication.
Provide a Sense of Safety
Hostile environments are incredibly destructive for any company. They pit employees against each other or keep them speaking their minds from fear of being reprimanded. One example comes from Microsoft which implemented a reward management system called “stack ranking”. Employees who ranked the highest were typically promoted while those at the bottom were often fired.
The intensive program may have started off with good intentions but it created a hostile environment that alienated many of its best employees. If employees don’t feel safe, it takes away from their ability to work productively. One way to provide a sense of safety then is to neutralise any feared results from the outset. Don’t set out to immediately shift blame but adopt a more understanding tone instead to avoid any miscommunication.
Listen Intently to What’s Being Said
Communication doesn’t just mean being able to convey your ideas. It’s a two-way street that also involves listening intently to what others are saying. When someone else is speaking, stay fully focused on what the person is trying to convey without any prejudgements. Pay close attention to any nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and gestures. What’s left unsaid can often reveal just as much as what’s being said.
Remember to ask any follow-up questions to clarify any details and to avoid any confusion. Listening is a skill that’s easy to overlook but it offers massive returns as it fosters trust and encourages openness. It shows employees that their comments are actually being heard.
Empower Others to Self-Manage
Another skill that great leaders share is empowering others. This means giving employees the authority to make their own decisions rather than waiting around for approval. It may sound counterintuitive to give employees more autonomy but research has shown that empowered teams are more productive and show higher levels of job satisfaction.
The key to making it work lies in communication. Giving your team members more authority shows a high level of trust. It’s also a great way to encourage employee recognition. But before you do, clearly delegate the tasks and explain how each part fits in with the company’s bigger picture.
Here are additional tips to improve your communication skills as a leader:
1. Pay attention to nonverbal communication
One study has found that prospects judge a salesperson’s credibility more on their body language than what they actually say. Practice being aware of the body language of others. Does their body language align what they’re saying? If not, dig deeper to identify any underlying issues.
2. Listen more than you speak
Listening doesn’t just mean hearing the words that are spoken to you. It also pays close attention and waiting patiently for your turn to ask follow-up questions. Active listening not only builds rapport but also encourages open communication. When people feel like their opinions are actually being heard, they’ll be more likely to voice their thoughts.
3. Be respectful
Leaders should always remember to be respectful toward others. If you belittle those who are giving honest feedback, they’ll be less inclined to do so again in the future. Aim to treat everyone equally to build trust and stronger relationships. Show your appreciation and build long-term relationships with a B2B loyalty program.
4. Be direct and clear
No need to beat around the bush. Speaking in a direct, clear manner will help get your point across. Before delivering an important message, think of the Five Ws (Who, What, When, Where, and Why). Clarifying each will allow you to deliver a more coherent message and prevent any miscommunication.
5. Practice makes perfect
Like any skills, you can’t expect to master them overnight. They take ongoing practice to be proficient. Commit to practising and improving your communication skills. The more you do, the more your leadership skills will benefit.
Communication is a trait that differentiates good leaders and great ones. Start with these points above to hone and develop your communication skills. With practice, you’ll grow as a more effective leader that others will follow.
Kym Wallis, the founding director of Higher Ranking has over 15 years of advertising sales, digital strategy, and business development experience. He is currently working as Digital Adviser for Acclaim Rewards.