Describing effective communication as a two-way street is passé. Communication is much more complicated, and leaders need to know a whole lot more than the mechanics of sending and receiving information.
Communication is a core leadership function.Effective communication and effective leadership are closely intertwined. Leaders need to be skilled communicators in countless relationships at the organizational level, in communities and groups and sometimes on a global scale. You need to think with clarity and express ideas and share information with a multitude of audiences. You must learn to handle the rapid flows of information within the organization, and among customers, partners and other stakeholders and influencers.
Authenticity counts — a lot. Be honest and sincere. Find your own voice; quit using corporate-speak or sounding like someone you’re not. Let who you are, where you come from, what you value, come through in your communication. “Forget about eloquence — worry about being real,” says Susan Tardanico, founder and CEO of the Authentic Leadership Alliance. “People want real. People respect real. People follow real. Don’t disguise who you are. People will never willingly follow a phony.”
Visibility is a form of communication. If you want to communicate well, don’t be out of sight. Don’t be known only by your e-mails and messages and official missives. Show up. In person. As often as possible. People need to see and feel who you are to feel connected to the work you want them to do. Find ways to interact with all of your stakeholder groups.
Listening is a powerful skill. Good communicators are also good listeners. When you listen well, you gain a clear understanding of another’s perspective and knowledge. Listening fosters trust, respect and openness. Allow people to air their gripes and complaints. Ask questions that open the door to what people really think and feel. And pay close, respectful attention to what is said — and what is left unsaid.
Communicate relentlessly. Communicate information, thoughts and ideas clearly — and frequently — in different media. Keep processes open and transparent and find ways to help smooth the path of communication for your team or organization.
Simplify. Say what you mean. Be direct. Don’t hide behind complexity or pile on a ton of information. Simple communication can be smart communication.
Hold your thoughts. Pause. Be OK with silence. Encourage the other person to offer ideas and solutions before you give yours. Do 80 percent of the listening and 20 percent of the talking.
Use stories. When you tell a good story, you give life to a vision, goal or objective. The telling of stories creates trust, captures hearts and minds, and serves as a reminder of the vision. Plus, people find it easier to repeat a story or refer to an image or quote than to talk about a vision statement or a strategy document or a project plan.
Back it up. If people hear one thing from you and see another, your credibility is shot. People need to trust you. Your behavior and action communicate a world of information — be clear on the messages you send when you are not speaking a word.
Want to learn more?
All CCL’s core leadership programs address communication, tailoring the information to each level and leadership demands:
- Leadership at the Peak
- Leading for Organizational Impact
- Leadership Development Program
- Maximizing Your Leadership Potential
- Leadership Fundamentals
CCL’s short guidebooks — including Communicating Across Cultures, Communicating Your Vision andActive Listening: Improve Your Ability to Listen and Lead — offer insight and how-to’s.