Have you ever worked with a manager who didn’t look you in the eye when they asked you to do something or emoted stress and awkwardness through their body language?
Perhaps you´ve had conversations with colleagues who take 5 minutes telling you every minor detail of an issue before they finally tell you what they want.
I´d be surprised if you never had a boss who often talked over and interrupted you, or pontificated about their own experiences instead of listening to what you had to say.
Wasn’t it annoying, frustrating or even discouraging?
Let´s flip it around. If you managed a team and behaved in a way that didn´t demonstrate good communication, wouldn’t your team find it hard to understand what you want, perhaps not take you seriously and maybe even ignore you?
Poor communication has a very negative impact in the here and now of everyday life both in and outside of work. It corrodes the ability of your team to perform at a higher level and diminishes your impact as a leader.
These are just two serious reasons why it´s crucial to improve your leadership communication and interpersonal skills.
If your team´s experience of how you communicate with them is consistently poor, they will view interactions as negative, and not a pleasure. In time, this will erode a vital part of creating a great culture of communication in an organisation – the ability to build rapport, to connect, and enable conversations that are open.
If your team thinks that your communication is verbose, complicated and discouraging, they will find ways to avoid communicating with you on small topics and big issues. Little details will be left out for fear of meetings carrying on longer than they need to. Great ideas will be strangled at birth because they will worry about your negative or dismissive comments. Team members won´t reach out for help and support when they need it as they are normally unsettled by the stressful tone of voice you use in everyday conversations.
However, if you are also a leader that likes to people-please and is afraid to give a direct, strong and clear instruction when it is needed, that´s not a good thing either. Your team and some colleagues may see you as a bit of a pushover. There will even be the colleague who takes this as licence to be disruptive or see how much they can get away with.
Why is it important to work on being a good communicator as a leader?
First, devoting time to improving and refining your communication style will help you to influence others, especially your team, colleagues or external contacts, so you increase the chances of delivering strategically important goals. A good leader wants to create influence that creates a concrete and positive change. If you can learn how to be an effective communicator it will be a gamechanger for your impact as a leader because you´ll start to provide a clearer direction for a team every day.
Second, it will make a real difference because better communication will motivate your team to deliver. At the very least it will help to reduce the risk of silent frustrations turning into grudges and eventually resentments. This is wasted energy. Poor communication creates this unfortunate behaviour. Many frustrations can be resolved early and that energy harnessed into positive action.
Finally, great communication inspires. It´s not necessary to be an orator in the office, but even communication about activities and tasks that are mundane can be delivered in a way that galvanizes your team so they feel more motivated and get a sense of why what they do matters. I don´t mean dressing up a job that you don´t want to do as a “development opportunity.”
The impact of poor communication isn´t just an abstract concern. It does influence how your team feels and the organisation´s effectiveness. A report published by The Economist in 2018 concluded that the biggest consequences of poor communication at work were: added stress (52%) failure to complete a project (44%) low morale (31%) and failure to close a sale (18%).
How to start improving the way you communicate today
It is quite common for someone thrust into a leadership position not to be naturally equipped with the skills needed to be a good communicator. Even good communicators can find something in their skillset to work on to be great. It will take time to evolve into a sharper and more effective communicator and it´s a lifelong journey. However, three major points to consider are:
Understand that good conversations don’t just happen. There is a process for effective conversations in the workplace (and life). This includes:
- being clear about the point of a conversation
- how it is structured
- where it takes place, and
- the timing and format.
Using the right language. Words really matter so don´t just let them tumble out of your mouth without a little forethought. Consider factors like:
- being mindful of tone of voice
- using appropriate language
- non-verbal behaviours, especially including body language and active listening.
Be authentic. Which can be hard to do and doesn´t mean telling your team everything on your mind – that´s not necessary. It does mean:
- trying to show emotional awareness towards colleagues and reading the cues
- not being afraid to ask for feedback, and
- regularly reflecting on your style of communication and its effectiveness.
Let´s communicate and carry on the conversation
It would be great to hear your views on communication and its importance to leadership for you. Some questions you might want to think about to stimulate reflection are:
- What are some of the problems you face in communication as a leader and how has this diluted your effectiveness?
- Have you discovered your own communication style and has this been effective or led to problems?
- When it comes to handling conflict and differences, in your experience what are effective ways of communicating well to move past issues?
- How do you gather feedback from colleagues and others that will give you the information to reflect on how to improve your communication?
If you ever feel that you want to improve your ability as a leader or there´s a need for your organisation to reflect on leadership in more depth, consider:
- Working with me via a formal one to one leadership coaching programme to help you with your strategic thinking and practice positive leadership.
- A workshop that will challenge your team, equip them with tools and help create the foundation for a common leadership culture.
- Getting in contact to discuss a keynote speech or presentation at an upcoming awayday or social event.
All information can be read here.
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If you really want to have a big impact as a leader you must focus on clarity.
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