5 Ways Leaders Can Improve Communication Skills
Leaders today face many challenges when it comes to effective communication skills. People are constantly inundated with incoming messages. People are internally processing data from television, radio, internet, emails, text messages, group chats, phone calls, and more. How can you communicate with impact to ensure their messages are reaching their intended audience in a meaningful way?
Whether it is a presentation to the Board of Directors, winning a new client, or communicating with co-workers, here are some easy ways you can improve your leadership communication skills now:
1. Be Present.
Whether you are communicating in-person or virtually, people can tell if you are distracted. As much as possible, remove any distractions during meetings. To stay engaged when others are speaking, pay close attention, make eye contact, and take note of key points.
Remember, people notice when you are checking your phone or other devices while others are talking, and it makes it less likely they will give you their full attention when it’s your turn. Good workplace communication requires being present and respectful when others share information.
2. Know your audience.
Craft your messages for the intended audience to communicate effectively. Ask yourself if they experts in the topic, or novices? Are you collaborating with your team, or trying to persuade a customer?
Some conversations are best done face to face so you can see facial expressions and body language. Nonverbal cues like tone of voice can be essential to the communicative process. We have all seen how an attempt at humor can backfire in a text message or social media post. This is due to the lack of nonverbal communication available.
When communicating with co-workers, consider their preferred forms of communication. For example, some people prefer to receive written communication that they can read at their convenience; while others prefer a quick phone call.
3. Focus on the purpose of your communication.
Know what you want to achieve with each interaction. Keep your messages focused on this one purpose, and resist letting conversations stray away from that primary subject. To make the most out of every minute you have, don’t take other’s time for granted.
Understand what you want to accomplish with any type of communication, and make sure your intentions are clear. Crestcom faculty member, Andy Bounds, calls this the “Afters”. Talking about the results you are looking for rather than just the tasks at hand can prevent misunderstandings.
4. Practice active listening.
Communication is a two-way street. Great leaders know they can both build trust and establish rapport by engaging in active listening. There is an old saying that we have two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we speak. The key to good communication is really paying attention to what the other person says.
Use non-verbal affirmations to show the other person you are paying attention, such as nodding your head to show understanding. Also, avoid interrupting others while they are speaking. Instead, when they finish speaking, paraphrase what you heard back to that person to make sure you have understood. If appropriate, ask specific questions to make sure you are both on the same page.
5. Always keep learning.
Effective business leaders embrace lifelong learning and self-improvement. Professional development in areas like emotional intelligence, strategic thinking and effective communication can give you and your team the competitive edge they need to succeed.