For more tips on how to communicate effectively, download my free guide, 7 Secrets To Highly Effective Communications
It’s simply impossible to successfully lead – people, teams, or projects – without knowing how to communicate effectively.
Some of the “problems” we continue to encounter as leaders day after day originate because of a failure in communications. The good news is that many of these problems can be solved by improving our communications.
Communications is not just talking; it’s listening and being aware of yourself, your audience, your objectives, and theirs.
Good communicators are not born, they work at it. Problem is, many leaders haven’t been exposed to role models, ideas, or practical advice on how to be better communicators – even though it is the one area that would propel them, their teams, and their businesses further and faster.
Learning to communicate better offers a cornucopia of other benefits – it builds trust and better relationships – which are the lifeblood of any organization. Good communications saves time by bringing greater clarity, so insightful decisions can be made more quickly and costly, suboptimal choices can be avoided.
Good communicators increases the confidence and optimism of individuals and teams.
Good leaders remain open to learning how to be better each day; and you can too.
You may be groaning at the idea of considering how to improve your communications. “I’ve got a business or team to manage, this takes too much time!” You may be feeling especially stretched if you’ve just moved to a new level of leadership in your organization or career. Taking time to focus on your own leadership skills is a luxury you think you can’t afford.
I empathize, as I have a calendar with many deadlines, launches, business development calls, team reviews, and board meetings – but with over 25 years of starting, growing, managing, and governing businesses, I’ve learned that I can’t afford not to invest in my leadership and communication skills.
I’ve learned the hard way that when I don’t focus on my communication skills, the goals and success I hope to achieve take longer, or in the worst cases, simply don’t materialize as I’d planned.
The following ideas are designed for busy leaders like you to give you the most benefit and impact quickly.
Consider these five ways to grow your communication skills every day.
1. Identify And Appreciate Your Communications Style
As with most anything, understanding ourselves; our strengths, weaknesses, and our tendencies, gives us insight and direction that result in positive progress, faster than when we don’t take the time for self-discovery.
Are you an introvert who prefers to listen, or someone who doesn’t really want to be noticed? Are you a talker, or a natural questioner? There are several quick and simple assessments to understand how you prefer to communicate. Mark Murphy of Leadership IQ offers a brief quiz. Mind Tools also offers a quick yet powerful quiz to help in this self discovery.
Once you have a better grasp on your style, you can harness these insights to make all of your communications – speaking, writing, listening, observing, and responding – more impactful.
If you consider yourself an introvert, Susan Cain, author of the bestselling book, Quiet, has some excellent ideas on how you can connect with anyone.
Understanding your communications style also helps you identify and appreciate the communications styles of others.
As Mark Murphy of Leadership HQ says:
“One major philosophical difference that separates the four communication styles is the extent to which you communicate with emotions or with data. For example, would you say something like ‘I feel like we’re off to a good start this quarter’ (emotions). Or would you say ‘this quarter sales are up by 7.2%’ (data).”
2. Powerfully Connect With Others By Listening
In each conversation, meeting, and even when reading email, listen and observe.
Do you have weekly management or staff meetings? Be more intentional in these meetings and notice what is being said and not said. You helps you learn more about those team members who are key to getting things done, or about your customers’ needs.
The number one thing great communicators have in common is they possess a heightened sense of situational and contextual awareness. The best communicators are great listeners and astute in their observations. Great communicators are skilled at reading a person/group by sensing the moods, dynamics, attitudes, values, and concerns of those being communicated with.
When you decide to be a more intentional listener and ask more questions, it’s amazing what you learn about people, projects, and even yourself. It’s worth taking a few moments after key conversations each day to ask yourself, “what did I learn?” Or do this once a day and write it down – it creates space for you to gain powerful insights you will use as you lead.
This helps you establish and grow connections with people you care about who are key to the growth of your business. Listening isn’t just for customer service or sales reps. Susan Cain (author of Quiet), points out how important listening with a desire to connect yields amazing results. Ms. Cain writes that salespeople who ask more and better questions – and listen to the answers – bring in 68% more revenue than those who don’t.
“Instead of coming on strong, they find out about the hopes and fears of their prospective buyers. They’re motivated not only by making the sale but by satisfying their prospects’ needs. Buyers feel the difference.”
3. Have A Clear Objective In Every Communication
This sounds so simple, but it is easier said than done. It’s the lack of clarity and objectives that derails or prolongs so many projects, meetings, and conversations!
To understand your objectives, you need to spend enough time to gain clarity and ask yourself if your objective is to inform, empower, or persuade. Do you need to address a group or an individual? Who is your audience and why do they care?
You will save so much time and money when you are clear in your objectives.
As leadership expert Mike Myatt shares:
“Specificity is better than Ambiguity 11 times out of 10: Learn to communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. Time has never been a more precious commodity than it is today. It is critical leaders learn how to cut to the chase and hit the high points – it’s also important to expect the same from others.”
Once you know your objective, begin your conversations (in person, over phone, Skype,or in email) with your key point.
4. Gain Courage, Inspiration, And Energy Through Role Models
One of the quickest ways we improve our skills is when they are modeled for us in others. This week, think of 2-3 people who have impacted you in their communications – these can be people you admire, or have worked with, or those whom you may not have even met.
Ask yourself what appeals to you about their communications: what is it that you admire? What works? Is it their story, their anecdotes, their metaphors, their honesty, etc.?
Some of my communications role models are people I have not met, but who have given TED Talks. A few are among the most viewed TED Talks of all time and the content and delivery of these talks have inspired me to improve my communications and leadership. These include Professor Amy Cuddy, whose research shows how your body language shapes who you are.
Brene Brown’s TEDTalk on her research about the power of vulnerability is another. Of course, these speakers worked very hard to hone and practice their message before delivering it – but neither of these communicators expected their content to resonate as it has.
What was it? I believe it was their authenticity, honesty, knowing themselves, telling their story, and having a good blend of facts and emotion helped them better connect them with their audience.
5. Get Personal
One quick idea you can borrow from these effective communicators is the power of personal stories. Add a few of your own in your communications toolkit. It’s worth knowing a few of your own powerful stories from your career and life to have on hand when you need them – and tell them often, in order to get better at storytelling!
These personal anecdotes can help you make your ideas and proposals real and relatable to a variety of people who are critical to your enterprise. For example, have you come up with an idea to make a product or service better? What happened? What two or three nuggets did you take away that would help your team? What obstacles did you overcome?
I often tell the story of how I cofounded a company and grew it to 1,100 people & $200m in revenue. Then I share that I didn’t even start college until I was 25 and finished at 28 to make the point that it’s never too late to start or finish something important in your personal development & career.
Many of the challenges we face as leaders can be improved when we invest in improving our communications. If you are intentional and make it a priority, you can become a great communicator.
I hope you put into practice one or all of these ideas on how to communicate effectively this week and see immediate results!