This is the fourth in a series of seven blog posts on Leadership - leadership ideas, techniques, skills and methods as conversation-starters for you and your supervisory personnel.
Communication — the human connection — is the key to personal and career success. - Paul J.Meyer
Communication is the most critical skill for effectively working as part of a team, when dealing with a customer, and in life. Communication is critical because without it, nothing would be accomplished.
Communication can become confusing or ineffective when we filter the message in our head, or are unable to convey it properly to the recipient. The goal of an effective leader is to ensure messages are cearly communicated, and to make sure the recipient understands what is being said or asked of them.
Have you ever been given a task to complete without understanding the end goal? Have you ever given or attended a presentation where the message was lost by the audience? These issues are not uncommon, but can be avoided if you continue to practice and perfect your communication skills.
Steps to take for ensuring effective communication:
- Know what you want to say in advance. Write an outline or key points of your message.
- Be authentic in your message and true to yourself. If you don’t believe it, no one else will. Authentic leaders exercise integrity.
- Remove as many distractions as possible. If you are in a meeting or giving a presentation, ask participants to turn OFF their cell phones. Your message it the most important event at that specific time, and that courtesy should be extended to you.
- Use appropriate body language and be aware of the audience's reactions. Eye contact is key to ensuring you are heard, so practice it! The body language of your audience will tell you if they are engaged — are they fidgety, sighing, have their arms folded?
- When meeting one-on-one to communicate constructive feedback, consider a conference room to reduce distractions and have a neutral territory.
- Ensure your emails reflect the tone and intent you want to convey. Sometimes it can be better to pick up the phone to relay the message, then follow-up with an email to confirm the conversation.
- Ask an employee or peer about what you said, and see if they heard it as intended – get their feedback!
Effective communicators stand out amongst the group. So, ask yourself “How can I improve?”
How do you know your message is effectively communicated? Do your employees “hear” your message?
As our retiring CEO/Group Leader, Bob Joyce, often cites “Leaders cast long shadows”. This “shadow” includes many skill-based critical success factors, most importantly, the ability to effectively communicate. In my experience, the most effective leaders use communication to achieve the following:
- Establish a shared mission and direction (communication drives team member commitment).
- Set motivating goals and objectives (communication defines the reasoning/rationale behind the goals and objectives).
- Set clearly defined expectations (team members know how they need to perform and how their roles align and contribute to the goals and objectives).
- Troubleshoot and solve problems, keep team members up-to-date on current challenges and emerging issues.
- Frequently recognize and reward team members (communicate appreciation).
- Be transparent and readily share information (allow team members to 'be in the know' and remove the noise to drive greater understanding and perspective).
- Define success (team members must understand what success looks like and the roadmap to achieving it).
- Be supporting and trusting, which leads to shared responsibility, shared success and mutual respect.
Finding and taking the time to effectively communicate is a challenging task. On your drive home from work, take time to reflect and ask yourself, “What did I communicate to my team today? Am I confident the messages were clear, concise and received as I intended? Did my communication position the team for success? Did I communicate why?”
Developing the self-discipline of reflection opens the door to deeper learning and understanding. In turn, this reflection empowers you to become a more effective communicator and thus a more effective leader.
Chris Paterakis, Group Human Resources Leaders
Photo courtesy of leadership-vibe.net
Suzanne Coleman is a senior risk control representative out of the Nashville office of Westfield Insurance. She has worked in the insurance industry for 20 years.