You’ve worked hard to ensure the lines of communication stay open within your organization. (Check out “How to Identify and Break Down Communication Silos in Your Organization” for more on how to do this.) However, you are worried that the messages being sent through those channels aren’t as effective or clear as they ought to be. What can you do now? Great leaders know how to talk and communicate with people in ways that will inspire them to take action.
Terrific interpersonal communicators indubitably have keen situational awareness and possess contextual understanding of the following elements of the communication process: their responsibilities in communicating the subject, the occasion and purpose for the message, and the needs of the audience and the feedback provided by that group about how well the message is being received. Unfortunately, many people who find themselves in positions of leadership are not innately gifted interpersonal communicators either because they lack the wherewithal to be cognizant of some elements of the communication process or because they lack certain traits that resonate with others.
As a result, they may not be able to effectively reach the people they need in a manner that will get them the results they desire. So let’s take a look at some tips that can help make anyone a more effective communicator and, by extension, a better leader.
1. Be trustworthy and forthright. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Be genuine about who you are and what you desire. If people sense duplicity on your part, you are more likely to lose their trust. Once you’ve lost trust, it is hard to effectively rally people to your cause. Furthermore, people are more likely to forgive mistakes you make if they perceive that you are trustworthy rather than if they believe you are dishonest or hiding something. Don’t be deceptively accommodating or flattering. Try to be direct without being insulting or hard on people. You shouldn’t mince words, but you shouldn’t get personal either. Keep it about the business at hand, and don’t be afraid to speak from your heart as well as with your mind.
2. Listen empathetically. One terrific way to build trust with your employees or associates is to listen to their concerns. Practice servant leadership by giving real consideration and attention to others’ wants and needs. Make legitimate attempts to address their concerns. This will allow you to relate to your audience in a more personal way, which will go a long way in establishing a meaningful relationship between you. If people feel that you are invested in them, they will be much more likely to invest in you, which will make it much easier for you to inspire them to share in your vision, accept your ideas, and work to meet your expectations. Of course, listening with empathy necessitates that you keep an open mind, but you may find that at the very least hearing different ideas and points of view will help both you and your enterprise stay sharp and vibrant.
3. Speak with knowledge, clarity, and specificity. If you deliver a muddled message, you’re likely to get a confused and disjointed response. Additionally, you may begin to lose the audience’s attention and their confidence in your ability to lead them to success. In today’s fast-paced world, it pays to be clear and concise when establishing expectations or giving directives. It also pays to show some mastery of the subject because people will not enthusiastically follow someone who seems to lack credible command of the situation or expertise in the area.
4. Convey an engaging narrative. Storytellers have been around since prehistory because people remember stories, particularly stories that touch people personally. Sharing a narrative and connecting it to the work your employees or associates are doing will give them a greater sense of purpose, ownership, and belonging. If you can deliver such a narrative to your audience—especially if you can do so while making every person in the group feel like an important individual who is vital to the success of the mission—you can speak to the hearts and souls of your people and not only persuade them to share your vision but also motivate them to work for the successful accomplishment of your shared goals. Being a capable, competent leader and communicator requires more than a good message. If you aren’t connecting with people on a visceral level, your attempts to lead may very well fall short no matter how worthwhile the content of the message is.
Consistently applying these four tips in your interpersonal communications will likely make you a more effective communicator, and in time you may find that you have also become a more successful leader than you had ever been before.
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