Moving into a leadership position comes with a collection of additional responsibilities and (often) unspoken expectations. When communicating as a leader, you must constantly be aware of the intricate details of your own behavior. It’s essential to communicate in a way that will be heard, understood, and encourage action.
Not every leader is born with the ability to communicate effectively, and those who were often still need to adjust certain behaviors. Of course, everyone knows the basics of effective communication:
- Strong eye contact,
- Good posture,
- Active listening,
- Avoiding filler words, etc.
But, typically to arrive in a leadership role, individuals will have already mastered basic professional communication. So, what truly sets apart the strong communicators from the flawed communicators?
1. Being Present
Yes, this seems incredibly simple. However, in the current technological landscape, everyone has their nose down and their eyes glued to their screen. In leadership, you’re often pulled in a million different directions all at once. Many times, these notifications come to your phone, your computer, or your tablet and are associated with a sound or a vibration. The noise (both literal and figurative) can make it incredibly difficult to be present when conversing with clients, partners, and employees.
One practice that set leaders apart is truly being present for communication. Eye contact, active listening, and keeping screens out of sight provides a more productive conversation. Put your phone on silent, and truly focus on the conversation. Let’s face it: active listening is simply impossible when someone is looking at a screen.
Even though being present is most important during face to face conversations, during phone calls and even when writing emails, try to focus on the task at hand. Your communication will be much more effective as a result.
2. Making Time
This ties in well with ‘Being Present’. In 2018, and recent years, we all pride ourselves on being ‘busy’. We’re busy with work, we have a million things going on and we have NO time! This is a curse when it comes to communication and it leaves the door open for half-hearted, screen-staring conversations, and unproductive, distracted meetings. You have enough time, you just need to be organized, and prioritize what’s most important. Make time to speak with those you need to, and when you do have important conversations, don’t rush them. When you’re rushing a conversation, it’s obvious.
3. Being Genuine
Do a quick Google search for best leadership practices and you could probably fake your way through a year or two in a leadership role. But, who are you imitating? I’m not saying throw away everything you learned in business school and just openly speak your mind. But, as leaders, it’s important to show your employees, clients, etc who you are. In communication, ingenuity is often easily spotted. You give yourself away with shifty eye movements, stiff posture and metered speaking.
If clear, concise communication doesn’t come easily, it’s something you can fine tune and finesse with practice and coaching. Don’t throw in the towel and take on a new persona, the people working with you will notice and it won’t be appreciated.
4. Having a Sounding Board
Your presentation is ready, and the board meeting is only a few days away.
- (A) crumple up your notes and think, “I got this”, OR
- (B) call up your go-to sounding board and practice your speech?
Chances are, most leaders would say A. But, some of the most effective leaders are open to others opinions, suggestions and constructive criticism. Having someone who can help you improve tiny things about your speech, presentation etc, can be incredibly impactful and can make all the difference.
Be sure to choose your sounding board wisely, mentors, coaches and fellow colleagues in leadership are typically a safe bet.
5. Being Human
Just because robots are popping up in our homes, at our grocery stores, and in our offices doesn’t mean you have to become one. Leaders can get the reputation of being a little…stiff. So, loosen up. It’s important to get to know the people you work with and the clients you service. Build rapport and keep lines of communication open. A good leader is many things, but among them is personable. Remember work isn’t everything, and the people you work with are just that, people.
Communication in leadership is not always easy. But, it’s arguably one of the most important pieces of the leadership puzzle. Even the best communicators among us are always seeking improvement. To start your journey toward communicating more effectively, reflect on your current practices and seek the advice of a coach or mentor.