Great leaders are great communicators. That doesn’t just mean they’re great orators though. By definition, communication is “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The key word here is exchange.
Consider the most basic communication model defined by Osgood and Schramm in 1954. It is circular. Messages are sent and received.
With that in mind, how can leaders communicate to demonstrate their leadership skills? Here are a few tips.
As we highlight in The Pin Drop Principle, communication is always a two-way street. As Dr. Ralph G. Nichols—often called the “Father of Listening”— said, “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
Too often though, people are distracted, preoccupied or forgetful a full 75 percent of the time while listening to others, according to the International Listening Association.
To combat this, give the other person your full attention. Concentrate on the sender’s message and their intention rather than considering and crafting a response. Listen to the entire message, then evaluate it, and then respond.
If you want to show employees you care, authentically connect with them. Connecting isn’t just lip service. Behavior often speaks louder than words. Margie Warrell, best selling author and Forbes.com contributor writes, “Engaging authentically with people around you is the first task of genuine leadership. This requires leaders leaving their offices to join employees on the shop floors and front lines where employees live each workday. It requires a willingness to lay vulnerability on the line, share authentically, to engage in open unstructured sessions of discussion where they risk direct criticism, tough questions, open hostility and even unsuccessful outcomes, and to constantly acknowledge the efforts of those around them. Employees will be far more willing to go the extra mile for leaders they can relate to on a human level, rather than someone whom they perceive thinks of himself as a ‘little bit better’ than everyone else. Relationships are the currency of the workplace, and so the stronger a leaders connections, the better placed they will be to engage their employees.”
After you connect with your employees, show them how much you appreciate them. In a recent Forbes interview, David Novak, co-founder and former chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, Inc. (KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell), and author of the new book, Oh Great One: A Little Story About the Awesome Power of Recognition, “Recognition has the power to transform leaders into great leaders,” he said. “It can transform an entire culture.”
Articulate a clear purpose
Mission statements are great, but most don’t clearly articulate WHY a company does what it does. Graham Kenny writes in Harvard Business Review, “To inspire your staff to do good work for you, find a way to express the organization’s impact on the lives of customers, clients, students, patients — whomever you’re trying to serve. Make them feel it.”
Here’s why having a clear purpose is so important. A recent Korn Ferry study found that companies focused on purpose and values reported annual growth rates of 9.85%, compared to 2.4% for the entire S&P 500 consumer sector — more than four times the growth rate.
Use a strong intention to communicate clearly, concisely, and confidently.
Before delivering a message, a communicator must understand with great clarity how they want their audience to react to their message. How do they want their audience to feel as a result of their communication? What do they want their audience to do? The answer to these questions is the speaker’s intention; according to the dictionary, intention is “an aim that guides action.” While leadership communication suggests using intentions like engage, inspire, and persuade, it also invites using intentions like support, nurture, invite, boost, affirm, approach, assist, challenge, commend, and elevate.
In a recent ATD poll, respondents indicated that communication is THE most important skill area related to managerial success. In the context of ATD’s poll, communication was defined as the exchange of information and feedback between managers and their direct reports. There’s that word again – exchange.
To learn how we can help your emerging and existing leaders improve their communication skills, please contact us.