Often the focus of leaders is on project or strategic plans, competitive tactics, financial statements. While clearly these are vital, all the tactical brilliance of leaders boils down to nothing if we can’t communicate to people. Whether you are leading a company, a team, a volunteer organization or serve on a board your ability to communicate effectively has an effect on relationships and solid relationship are the cornerstone to being a better leader. Here are eight communication skills to help you build solid relationships.
- Be genuine. Good communication is ultimately about being genuine about what you are saying. If you communicate with the best of intentions, whether to give praise or critique or presenting ideas nothing can go wrong.
- Care about others, and let them know. Successful communication can only take place when there’s mutual respect among the people communicating. Respect their opinions and allow them to communicate without interrupting.
- Manage your emotions. In situations where you are upset recognize that your emotions may get in the way of the message you want to deliver. If you are huffing and puffing, angry and red faced that’s what the other person responds to, not the words you are speaking.
- Be clear about your message before speaking. Often we speak without really thing about the message we are delivering. What do you want to accomplish in the conversation and what specifically is the message you want to deliver. Too often we begin speaking and assume the other person will get it. If we aren’t clear in our own minds first it reduces the chances of successful communication.
- Listen more and speak less. In my opinion listening is the single most important communication skill to master. When people feel heard and understood they will relax and share their thoughts and feelings. And the more they share, the more you learn and know how to respond and what next to say.
- Ask questions rather than make assumptions. In communication we hear something someone said and assume we know what they mean, but we may not. Words we use do not mean the same to everyone. Strategic plan, blue, opportunity, more challenge…none of these are specific and what they mean to you may be very very different than what they mean to the other person. You have to ask questions to be certain you are clear about their meaning, not your assumption of their meaning.
- Watch for non-verbal clues. This is more than are their words in alignment with their actions. Are they too quiet and not saying much, are they looking down and not at you, do they appear afraid, disengaged or something else? What non-verbal clues are they giving out that give you signals as to how they are feeling? AND don’t ignore them. It something seems off you must ask questions and address it. Ignoring is not an option.
- Practice Makes Perfect. Don’t assume you try once or twice and get results. Every day, every interaction requires you to practice. Watch for where you see improvements, and what is still not working and make the adjustments.
People confuse the speaking of words with the art of communicating, and then are dismayed with the outcome. Communication is a challenge and most of us don’t do it well. Miscommunication interferes with trust, productivity, relationships, profitability and prevents leaders from ‘being all they can be’. By using the techniques outlined above you will be taking the first step to improving your communication and building critical skills as a leader.