An elevated position in a company is an exciting prospect. Once you’ve been chosen for the job, you have a myriad of challenges awaiting you. But while you might have the hard skills you’re going to need, what about the soft skills?
One of the soft skills any leader should have is the ability to communicate well.
Communication is not about talking at people, it’s about talking to people.
Leadership styles have a profound influence on the ability to communicate with employees:
1. It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It
When you go into a situation that requires you to communicate with team members, you need to maintain some air of authority. But once you start talking, you need the people listening to you to relate to what you’re saying.
Don’t inject unnecessary jargon. It comes across as an attempt to stamp your superiority on the matter by attempting to confuse people. People also switch off when they don’t understand what you’re talking about.
You’ll quickly identify this as people will either stare at you blankly or become engrossed in their cellphones. These are responses that you want to avoid at all costs.
Address the people your communication is directed at with respect. There’s no need to be condescending toward them because they occupy lower positions in the company. The aim is to make your audience want to follow you, not feel like they have to.
2. Confidence and Composure are Reassuring
Before you go into a meeting with clients or employees, you’re likely to be feeling a little nervous. It’s a normal reaction that you should embrace. The trick is to look like you’re not feeling anxious.
Accomplishing an exterior veneer of cool and calm is much easier said than done. Several behaviors will give you away. You might begin sweating and have clammy palms. Your eyes tend to dart around, and you speak quickly so that you can get it over with. Some people shake visibly, while others stumble over their words.
Preparation is important if you want to appear confident. Prepare mentally for what you’re about to do and use proven techniques to help you stay calm. Have notes or cards with you to make sure you cover everything. If you need access to facts and figures, have them well-organized.
3. Hone Your Writing Skills
Not all of your communication is going to be verbal. As a leader, you’ll need to write a lot of letters and emails. It’s vital that you have good written communication skills so that you can get your point across.
Writing is not something that comes easily to everyone. But there are some guidelines you should follow.
Keep your communications specific and concise. Using flowery language and wordy sentences detracts from the impact of what you’re trying to say. It’s also important to make sure that you adhere to the grammar, spelling, and punctuation conventions of the language of communication.
If this is not your strength, ask someone to help you proofread and edit your communications before you send them out. You’re there to lead, not to be an English expert.
This approach helps you avoid little slips that can change the entire message you’re trying to convey. People love picking through your mistakes and pointing them out to you. It can go as far as making you less credible. Save yourself the experience by double-checking everything.
4. Use Facial Expressions and Body Language to Your Advantage
Some experts believe that communication is 7% verbal and 93% nonverbal. Regardless of the percentages, what you say isn’t always as important as how you come across while you’re saying it. Even the best message will fail to get across to an audience if you don’t communicate it well.
Body language accounts for up to 55% of your communication. This includes your posture. If you’re hunched over and trying to look smaller, you’re not conveying the right message.
Your face also tells a story. You need to come across as relaxed and friendly. Smile and make direct eye contact when you are speaking. People will find you to be more engaging and persuasive if you do.
Your tone of voice is also a determining factor. You need to project your voice so that everyone can hear you. But that doesn’t mean you should yell. Keep your tone upbeat and avoid sounding monotonous if you want to keep your audience engaged.
5. Manners Cost Nothing
This is probably something your parents and teachers have told you as you were growing up. The reason that it’s a common saying is that it’s true.
The ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ you had to learn can pay handsome dividends in a leadership role.
Manners are an important part of showing respect. Even if you’re going into a meeting and you’re furious, don’t yield to the temptation to vent your anger then and there.
A bombastic, brusque approach to communication is different from being business-like and professional. You can stay on topic and say what you need to without being rude or disrespectful.
6. Democracy Works
A meeting should never be a one-sided affair, with you doing all the talking and the others only listening. You might be issuing a directive. But it’s important that everyone is on board with what you want to do.
The simplest way to accomplish that is to allow people a say. People value the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect them.
They may not agree with what you want and will try to argue against it. What’s essential here is that your employees can see that their points of view matter to you. When someone raises a valid point, it might persuade you to amend your decision.
There might be some times when an autocratic approach is necessary, specifically in emergency or other urgent situations. But whenever possible, take a democratic approach.
The people you’re meeting with can surprise you when you give them a chance to make their thoughts and feelings heard.
7. Take Nothing for Granted
You might think you’re on top of the communication thing. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. No one is perfect. You can build on your communication skills and evolve them.
It is important to be a lifelong learner, so continuously working at improving your communication skills is necessary.
Some people seem to be born with the gift of the gab. They stand up and speak to an audience with ease. And their written communication is of a high standard. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not a natural.
Communication skills can be learned. Most consummate communicators don’t rely solely on talent. They put in the necessary work to make them the best communicators they can be.
If you deem it necessary, take communication skills classes. Take up public speaking or debate as a hobby. The more you practice, the easier it will become. Learn from your mistakes. It’s what you do with them that counts.
Instead of cringing with embarrassment about that one time a meeting didn’t go according to plan, ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. Each knock molds you into the person you are if you allow it to.
The next time you prepare for a meeting or presentation, or you sit down to write a letter, pause for thought. Each time you get the opportunity to communicate something, make sure you apply the communication skills you have.
Even the shortest email deserves your best effort if you want to be known as an effective communicator.
If you have the skills, share them with others. The world becomes a better place when its people can share knowledge and opinions through effective communication.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. This simple advice and your communication skills will assure you of success.
Which Communication Skills Are Essential?
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