On any leadership growth journey, one of the key areas of development as a leader is the ability to communicate. In fact, leadership and the ability to communicate go hand in hand. It goes without saying that leaders are expected to be great communicators. They run projects and make decisions that directly impact the business’s bottom line, and most importantly, they constantly interact with people. The way they communicate with their team has a tremendous impact.
I’m guessing each of us can name one leader who has been influential in their success and another who has bulldozed their success. In both cases, it is more than likely due to communication.
Leaders may be experts in their field and have a degree or two. They might even have many innovative ideas that could help solidify a company’s future. But if they can’t convey those ideas in a meaningful way their influence will be limited. Communication failures can be costly for organizations, causing wasted time and effort, low morale, reduced productivity, and a loss of trust and credibility.
On the flip side, the ability to communicate with clarity and purpose where leaders can inspire, motivate and persuade those around them to achieve organizational goals can have the opposite effect. Organizations can build trust and relationships, increase engagement, improve productivity and come together focused on a shared vision.
However, leaders often fail to devote as much time to developing their communication skills as they do to honing other business skills because it can seem as though it’s not as worthy of their time. Therefore, I would like to share a couple of tips on how to communicate better:
Know Your Audience. One of the most common communication mistakes leaders make is failing to tailor their message to fit their specific audience. You must understand the challenges and concerns of your team and clients. You need to start by connecting to where your team is if you want to create real influence.
Create Meaning. Twenty years ago, the smartest person in the room at work was the one who had gathered more and better information than anyone else. Today, the smartest person in the room ... is the one who can simplify all the things that are going on and create a path through the complexity and toward a simpler solution.
Be Visible. Visibility is about letting your team and key stakeholders get a feel for who you are and what you care about. It’s easy to hide behind a computer and send messages to others without seeing or interacting with them. Spend some time face-to-face with employees and other members of the company, visit offices, call centers, visit stores and other locations. It shows people that you are approachable and you care about them. The more visible you are, the better you'll be able to lead.
Motivate. Encourage your team to participate and share their ideas because this will help them become personally invested in their work and the work of the company. Motivation will spread to others around them.
According to a recent survey in Success, “91% of the surveyed employees think their managers are not good communicators.”
What kind of communicator are you? And how can you continue to improve your communication skills?
Arthur M. May AIA Assoc. President