What’s one skill all great leaders have in common? You likely have a list of qualities running through your mind, and the truth is that most of those traits are certainly skill sets of leaders you admire. While you’ll find variance in what sets a stellar leader apart from the pack, there is one thing that comes up time and time again among them all: They communicate well.
Here’s the good news: if you follow these four tips, you’ll be a communication champ, too!
Dialogue not Monologue
A good leader has conversations. Whether you’re meeting one-on-one or with a team, open the floor to give and take. When another person is speaking, tap into the power of body language to let them know you’re listening: look at them, nod when appropriate, lean in. There may be times when you need to monopolize the conversation, but if you’ve established your willingness to engage in open discourse, your team will be comfortable asking questions and adding insights when opportunities arise.
Skilled communicators listen. In fact, the best communicators listen more than they talk. By the way, absentmindedly nodding while you’re plotting your response is also out. Actively listen to what your conversation partner is saying. When you respond, begin by rephrasing what you just heard to affirm you heard it correctly.
Be Clear and Get Clear
Do you remember playing “Telephone” as a child? As the first player you lean over to the second and whisper “Good leaders communicate clearly.” The message winds its way around the room and then last player announces aloud, “Food greeters communicate dearly? What does that even mean?”
Skip the lingo unless you’re sure everyone is on the same page and up to speed with industry speak. Enunciate clearly. Stay on point. Watch the pace of your speech. Don’t tap dance around your point, even if it’s a difficult conversation. Be succinct and then open the floor to questions. Likewise, if you’re on the listening end, ask questions to clarify points and ensure you understood the message.
Look Beyond the Words
According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, 93% of communication is non-verbal. While you’ll find other researchers that dispute the exact percentage offered by Mehrabian, they do agree that the majority of what we’re “saying” isn’t necessarily about the words we’re speaking. Pay attention to tone of voice and body language – of yours and those who are speaking to you. Also watch for body language cues in your listeners. As an example, a person furrowing their brow may be confused by what you’re saying. Use that as a cue to slow down and restate your point in different terms or to pause and field questions.