The communication techniques required to be a successful leader are frequently synonymous with the communication skills required for a business to be successful. For leaders who want to both deliver results and inspire their employees to perform at their best and stay with the company, strong communication skills are an absolute must.
But, which skills are the best ones for a leader in a business to focus on? Here are a few of the top communication techniques for successful leaders:
Before any successful leader starts moving their businesses forward, they must first be able to listen to those around them and understand what is being said. In an article featured on Big Think, Vietnamese Buddhist monk, writer, and activist Thich Nhat Hanh “elucidates how the common misguided and unconscious tendency to focus only on one’s own reactions, ideas, and public performance can be deceptively myopic: our actions, work, and self-interest are often inextricably intertwined with the minds, feelings, and interests of others.”
Basically, rushing to espouse your own point of view and drowning out others’ ideas is counter-productive. Not only does doing so end up causing the listener to become disengaged, you might miss out on important contextual information that the other person has about the condition of the business. This could harm productivity and leave you in the dark about a major issue.
Great listening technique entails more than just being quiet for a bit and letting others talk (though that is important). There is much more to interpreting what others say beyond their word choice.
Part of being a great listener means paying attention to the body language of others. Nonverbal language cues can reveal how confident the speaker is and provide insight into their opinions beyond what they say.
Another part is listening for how people talk, which words they emphasize, and how they emphasize them. The way someone stresses a particular word can take a sentence from being a passive, objective statement to an accusatory or even praising tone.
Take the simple phrase “he did it.” Without stresses, it’s a simple statement of fact, that the subject did something, whatever “it” is. However, by stressing the word he, the phrase takes on a negative connotation, indicating that the activity was bad: “HE did it.” Placing a stress on the word did would add more of a sense of surprise or wonder: “he DID it.”
Learning to read body language and interpret the way in which people speak isn’t an exact science and it can take a while to get the hang of it. But, for those leaders who learn this communication skill, paying attention to what people say and how they say it—both with their voices and their body language—can be enormously useful for gaining context and guiding conversations towards positive outcomes.
2) Being Clear and Concise
You can’t assume that your employees will hang onto every word you say in every conversation, let alone spend time and energy researching any odd or obscure terms you use. As Forbes contributor and member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing, Steve Olenski, states in an article, “As a general rule, people do not listen attentively… don’t use words that aren’t understood by most people. Not only will your message be lost, but you’ll run the risk of sounding arrogant.”
Basically, try to be as clear and concise as you can when speaking to employees. It can also help to, as Olenski points out, “prepare your conversations in advance… think about objections people may have toward your opinions or solutions, and prepare convincing answers to objections.” A little preparation can help you be more confident when facing objections—which can influence employee reactions.
3) Being Honest and Humble with Employees
It may sound odd, but one of the best “communication” skills a leader can have is the ability to be self-reflective and have the humility to recognize their own past mistakes. Numerous articles, such as this one from Inc.com, cite lying, covering up mistakes, and deflecting blame as some of the fastest ways to lose the respect of your employees.
Really great leaders know when they’ve made a mistake, own up to it, and then keep going—they will admit fault, but they also never say die or allow a defeatist attitude to overcome them and infect their employees.
Employees can recognize when they have a leader who is being honest and frank, and are much more likely to respect such employers and stay engaged with their work.
Not every communication a leader will have with an employee will be face-to-face. There are times where every leader will need to send an email or text message to someone either inside or outside their organization that they can’t dictate to someone else.
Here, having strong writing skills is essential for ensuring that the reader understands what is being communicated. Brevity is good, as long as you’re only eliminating unnecessary words. For example, an email saying “meeting at 5:00” doesn’t help the recipient prepare for the meeting. What is the meeting about? Who else is attending? Where is the meeting?
There are many more specific communication skills that are worthwhile for leaders to learn—these just happen to be a few of the most important ones. Take your leadership skills to the next level to engage employees and produce better business outcomes by checking out our business communications video learning series.