by Granville Triumph
Effective communication is vital to any business. Without it, operations grind to a halt, customer service suffers and profits plummet.
But for those who are in a position of leadership, effective communication is especially critical. Leaders must be able to concisely express their objectives and ideas, and gain support for their decisions. They must also be able to inspire others to put aside their differences and personal agendas and pull together for the common good of the organization.
Great leaders must excel at speaking publicly to large and small groups. But they must also be skilled at private, one-on-one communications and the “self-talk” that drives personal self-esteem and self-confidence. Each of these skills are distinct, but all require that a leader listen carefully to his or her words and consider the affect those words may have on their intended audience.
The most important component in successful communication is trust. Leaders must not only tell the truth but resist the desire to cover up problems or bad news. They must accept personal responsibility for mistakes and weaknesses while demonstrating confidence, competence and a positive outlook. Establishing trust requires constant and consistent communication using clear, precise language.
Successful communication requires tact and inclusiveness. Great leaders avoid insensitive words that cause offense or belittle the listener, even if they feel they “deserve” to use such language. Instead, leaders seek to unify their teams by nurturing shared values and goals.
Knowledge of the subject matter is essential. People quickly grow impatient with individuals who simply like to hear themselves talk without adding any value. Those who rely on form over substance lack credibility. Great leaders come prepared to communicate on the topic at hand and have the confidence to adjust the message as needed.
Great leaders also understand the importance of how they present ideas to others. They are careful not only in their choice of words but in the tone, timing and delivery of communications. They provide specific, relevant and meaningful information in a structure suitable for the audience and situation, and motivate by balancing logic with the right amount of emotion.
Most importantly, effective communication requires strong listening skills. Great leaders know when to remain silent and listen carefully to what is and is not said. They try to put themselves in the other person’s shoes in order to understand various points of view.
Some people seem to be born communicators while others struggle to communicate effectively. What can you, as a leader, do to improve your communication skills? The first step is to honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. When you need to deliver an important message, plan carefully and try to anticipate the audience’s viewpoint. Make sure the goal of the communication is clearly defined, and frame the message in that context. Express yourself with conviction then be open to the recipient’s response.