There’s more to good leadership than being masterful within your own department or industry. Being an effective communicator is among the list of additional skills good leaders need to cultivate. Being a solid communicator is necessary for everything from giving your support staff direction on specific projects to casting vision for the larger corporate body. Want to hone your skills and get up to speed in this arena? Start with these tips.
If we’re listening to the marketing messages buzzing around us – the bigger drink, the bigger burger, the bigger screen on our phone, the bigger car – bigger is better. Except, of course, when it’s not. When it comes to communicating clearly, we want to avoid giving more information than is needed to convey our point. It might feel that the lengthy explanation is helpful, but in reality providing more detail than your team needs can muddy the message.
Plan & Edit
When you’re trying to get folks on board with something you’re excited about (or something you’re not sure they'll readily be onboard with) the desire to provide as much detail and explanation as possible can be hard to resist. Don’t go into those conversations cold. Write a rough outline of your talk. Then read and edit. Be realistic. Ask hard questions and be liberal with the “red pen.” Cut back anything that’s not necessary.
But Don’t Be Vague
Effective communication relies on balance. While you want to trim fluff, you don’t want to cut out details. Remember, your goal is to include the key points someone must connect with in order to understand your message. Don’t overedit. You’re not aiming for a time limit or word count. You’re looking to provide what your team needs in order to do what you’re asking them or to get enthusiastic about the vision you're casting.
Know Your Audience
Some people will be influenced by data points. Others are looking at the big picture and want to hear outcomes that may be more subjective in nature. Some may be ready to experiment with a new market or concept before you open your mouth simply because it’s in their nature to stretch and try new things. Others may be reluctant to move beyond the “we’ve always done it this way” predictability of staying the course.
How you communicate your plans and ideas should be guided by who it is you’re talking to at the moment. The big picture themes will remain the same. The way you frame it and the supporting information you provide (concisely) may be influenced by the person or group you’re speaking to.
If you’re a quiet, reserved person jumping up on the stage at your annual sales meeting in a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses with a few fist bumps is going to come across as disingenuous. Good communication begins with trust and trust begins with the perception of authenticity. Sure, quiet, reserved leaders can rally a crowd into a frenzy, but do it in a way that rings true to you. Likewise, don’t craft messages that don’t utilize your everyday vocabulary or structure.
What’s Your Body Saying?
We may concentrate our communication efforts on the words we use, but we communicate with our full self. The way you’re standing, your eye contact, your gestures – it all comes together to convey something to your audience. If your words are saying “We’re looking ahead to a profitable year of growth!” but your body is closed off, your eyes are downcast, and your voice is shaky, your audience may hear, “Listen, I know it sounds ridiculous. Even I don’t believe this.” Be aware of what your body language is saying.
Signal Key Points
You will provide some background information and supporting details in the mix of your core messaging. Make your key points stand out by flagging them with verbal cues. “I cannot stress this enough…,” “Now, take note…,” and “If you remember nothing else, remember this…” are all examples of language that says “If you’ve not been paying attention to me before, pay attention to this.”