Being a good leader requires many diverse skills, but more and more it is being accepted that of the multitude of skills that leaders require, communication is one of the most important. Think about it: a leader is someone who inspires and delivers meaningful change, by inspiring and empowering their employees. It stands to reason that the most influential means they have to do this is communication.
Effective communication has been proven to increase morale, lead to improvements in goals being met and an increase in performance and sales. More importantly, communication is what gets a workforce behind a leader’s vision for the organisation and makes it happen.
While some people are natural communicators, this is also a skill that can be developed and learnt. Specific communication skills are also necessary for different organisations and situations, such as one-on-one conversations through to organisation-wide messaging or even external communication to large groups.
Here are some points to consider for leadership communication:
Have a plan
What leadership communicates and when they do it needs to be well considered and timeously delivered, which is why a communication strategy needs to be planned and not delivered ad hoc. Internal communication specialists should work closely with leadership in this regard to maximise the effect of key messages.
Both the frequency and timing of messages are key: if too few messages are sent they can be overlooked; if messages are sent too far in advance they may be forgotten about; too many messages create fatigue and foster disinterest, and if messages are sent too late they cause panic and resentment – “Why are we only finding this out now?”
Target your messages
Deliver messages only to whom they are relevant: sending blanket emails to the entire organisation is a waste of manhours and creates fatigue and disinterest, resulting in messages being ignored or skimmed through. Limit a leader’s communication so that when one does arrive in an inbox the recipient knows to pay attention.
Tailor your tone
Just as important as knowing who to send a message to is knowing how to word it. Match your tone with your message so that there is no confusion or disparity between the message and the tone: when the message is serious, don’t try to cushion it with casual terms, but if you’re congratulating a team on a job well done, make it truly sound like a happy occasion.
Be clear and concise
It is imperative that leadership communications are understood, so keep messages simple and clear. Employees need to understand what they need to take away from the communication, be it a priority, a goal, a deadline or any other milestone. Remember: clarity eliminates confusion.
Get to the point. Make it immediately obvious what the communication is regarding, who it affects and what those people need to know. The shorter a message is, the more likely it is to be viewed in its entirety, understood and acted on.
Sometimes the truth can be ugly, so don’t try to dress it up and camouflage it. Give employees the respect they deserve to deliver bad news openly, but also share the good news. By discussing challenges the organisation is facing, goals they are working towards or opportunities they have identified, leaders can build trust and enthusiasm in the workplace as employees know their roles.
Keeping executives, managers and employees in the dark so that they don’t know what’s happening in their organisation can lead to reduced employee engagement and a higher staff turnover.
Listening is communicating
Effective communication is never unidirectional. Active listening is a skill common to most exceptional leaders – when employees have the opportunity to share their points of view and experiences they feel they are part of something bigger and playing an important role in the organisation’s success. It also makes them feel like they are part of the decision-making process and are playing a role in their own futures, as opposed to merely receiving orders. When engaged in dialogue, leaders should ask open-ended questions like, “Tell me more?”
To be able to listen, leaders also need to be accessible. We’re not talking about the CEO’s door being open to everyone, but employees should know that they have an open channel to management that is actually considered.
A leader shouldn’t be a mysterious name on the organisation’s masthead – they should have a face that is known to employees, a voice of their own and a constant presence. Use the leader’s name on important documents. Encourage senior leaders to commit to communicating regularly. Use a leader’s time effectively by actually being present at important meetings and ‘showing face’. Create a vehicle for the leader, be it a monthly newsletter or video message.
Once a plan and a narrative have been settled on, they should be stuck to. Any inconsistencies in the narrative will cause confusion, distrust and lower future engagement. To ensure the narrative is stuck to, key messages should be supplied to management and these adhered to in every message.
Communicating empathetically allows employees to know that they are seen as people who are valued. This will encourage them to create meaningful connections with the organisation and to it, increasing their commitment to their jobs.
If this makes sense and you want to learn effective Leadership Communication from the experts, say firstname.lastname@example.org.
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