Holding a leadership position and being an effective communicator go hand in hand. It’s impossible for you to lead a team, company, or department, without being able to communicate well with those within your organization and those with a stake in the success of your organization.
There are many skills required to be a successful leader in business, and communication is indeed one of the most important. While most leaders have gotten to their place in a company because they have a strong set of communication skills, it’s always an area that can be improved upon over time. This blog post will detail the 4 communication pillars that guide you in learning how to communicate as a business leader.
The definition of communication is the ability to send and receive information between two or more people. When communication is discussed, verbal communication is often the first that comes to mind, but this method of communication is just one. There are multiple forms of communication as a business leader that must be mastered so you can lead effectively.
Listening is often considered one of the most important types of communication. The mistake many people make is to focus on listening only to respond, not to understand. This is especially true when under pressure, in a rush, or in a conversation where emotions are running high which happens very frequently in the business world. Without the foundational ability to listen, it’s impossible to maintain appropriate communication.
Here are a few ways you can improve your listening skills.
Face the speaker: It’s difficult to show you’re listening when your body is facing the opposite direction, or worse, looking at your phone or computer.
Maintain eye contact: This nonverbal form of communication shows that you are giving the speaker your full attention.
Keep an open mind: If you go into a conversation with preconceived notions and your mind set on how things will go, you’ll be unable to take in what is being said during the conversation entirely.
Minimize distractions: This includes internal and external disturbances. While it’s easier to reduce external distractions, your inner thoughts, feelings, and that running to-do list might be more difficult to forget. This takes practice.
Engage: When you engage in listening by asking questions, paraphrasing what was said, and providing feedback or advice when asked, you are an active part of the conversation, without only listening to respond.
Verbal communication includes your volume, enunciation, the words you use, and your tone. It is the most frequent form of communication in business and mastering it is vital if you want to be a strong leader.
Here are a few ways you can improve your verbal communication skills.
Be concise: Communication doesn’t always require many words. You want to learn to get your message across without adding information that isn’t relevant and without confusing your audience.
Think Before You Speak: Don’t be in a rush to answer when speaking. Take the time to consider what your response will be before you begin talking. This gives you time to check your emotional awareness, gather your thoughts, and formulate an idea of what you will say. Doing this also minimizes the likelihood that you will say something that you later regret.
Vary Your Tone: Speaking in a monotone voice will quickly bore the person or people you’re speaking to. While you don’t have to be an animated performer, you don’t want to sound bored during your conversation either. By varying your tone and the pace of your sentences, you will keep the conversation, or at least your part, more interesting.
Nonverbal communication is comprised of your facial expressions and body language. This form of communication can change the entire tone of the conversation, that’s why it’s vital that you always keep it in mind.
Here are a few ways you can improve your nonverbal communication skills.
Maintain eye contact: Eye contact is essential. Too much eye contact can be intimidating and inappropriate, but too little eye contact can seem as though you’re hiding something or not interested in the conversation. There is no hard and fast rule for how long you should look at someone before looking away. Do what feels natural and comfortable for you.
Check your posture: Think about what your body is saying to your audience. There’s a big difference between a person who is standing slouched over with their head down and a person standing straight with their head up. Who would you want to have a conversation with? Be sure that your posture is portraying your intended message.
Read your audience: It’s not only important to consider your nonverbal communication skills, but that of your audience as well. Are they looking at you or looking around seemingly bored? Are they engaged in the conversation or do they keep looking at the clock waiting for it to end? Do they seem guarded with their arms crossed, or open to the communication you’re having? Keep the nonverbal communication of your audience in mind as you interact with them.
Written communication is frequent, especially in this technological age. It’s often required that we communicate via text message, email, notes, etc. It is best to communicate using appropriate writing skills related to proper grammatical conventions, but using the proper tone and being clear and concise is also crucial.
Here are a few ways you can improve your written communication skills.
Be brief: Written communication should be clear and to the point. When it becomes more lengthy, it’s easier for your message to be misconstrued. It’s best to provide brief written communication and follow up with a verbal conversation on the matter when appropriate.
Reread: The tricky part about written communication is there are no nonverbal cues to indicate the true meaning of what’s being said. I can send an email stating, “I need to see you in my office now.” That might automatically put you on high alert that something is wrong. However, if I walk to your office smiling and say “I need to see you in my office now.” with a chipper and light-hearted tone, you might be curious as to the reason, but the same alarms won’t go off in your head.
Communicating as a business leader is a necessity. As you improve your communication skills, you will see your relationship with those within your company and stakeholders improve.
As you learn how to communicate better, you will see the engagement of those within your company grow as well. Working to enhance the participation of those you lead is crucial, and if you’re looking for additional ways to boost the engagement rate of those on your team, download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement.
Whether you are leading an entire company, a department, or a small team, if you want to be a successful leader in business, there are certain traits you must acquire. While being a leader is not a one size fits all position, the most successful leaders share a set of personality traits. This blog post will outline the 5 common business leadership skills you will want to improve over time.
As you read these qualities, be sure to consider where you stand on a scale of 1-5, 1 being it doesn’t describe you at all and 5 being it describes you perfectly. If you find that your rating is a 3 or below, you want to think about developing your leadership skill in that area. It has been said that employees don’t quit their job, they quit their boss, so if you can ensure you’re the best leader possible, you will likely increase retention rates, productivity, and engagement within your company.
Leaders are required to consistently. Those who you lead look to you to take action that will move the company forward. If you are unable to make decisions that will benefit your team, department, or company, you will be unable to succeed in a leadership position.
Decisions will sometimes need to be made quickly, so you must practice your ability to make choices that require quick, on the spot decision-making skills.
Other decisions are based on a long-term plan and require collaboration, strategy and more thought to be successful.
Leaders sometimes believe that to be a good decision maker they must do it independently, but often, making decisions will involve communicating with other stakeholders in the company from various levels.
Being able to communicate through the decision-making process and come to a conclusion that suits everyone involved is one of the signs of a real business leader.
Integrity is your ability to be honest and behave in an upright manner. As a leader, others are always looking at you to see how you react in situations and will see you as an example of what to do and how to move throughout the company.
You must carry yourself with integrity to be a leader that guides others. You don’t have to be perfect and maintain a 100% squeaky clean image with no room for error, that’s difficult to manage, instead, be honest. Be relatable. Be real with your team.
If you make mistakes, explain what happened and what could be done differently in the future. Do not put yourself in a position to fake being perfect, then let down your team when they realize that you are only human.
Also, do not take the idea that you are only human too far. You must always keep in mind that you are the example of leadership within your company.
As the leader in business, you have to know what’s going on in your company and your field. You’re not required to be an expert on every topic within your business, but you should have a general understanding of most issues related to your niche.
In certain situations you won’t be able to provide the necessary resources or information, so it’s important to know where to quickly access information that’s required to move your company forward.
If you lack a strong knowledge base, people will see your deficiencies and recognize that you don’t know much about the area in which you call yourself a leader.
Endurance is the ability to keep going. As a leader in business, you must keep going because all eyes are on you. If you’re unable to maintain endurance as the leader, others will see that it’s okay for them to stop when things get hard.
It’s an excellent teachable moment for your team to let them sometimes know when you are feeling tired or stressed and what you do internally to keep yourself going so you don’t quit. They will see you as more relatable and hopefully learn from you instead of believing you’re a corporate robot who never has a bad day.
Also, when you lead others, they will turn to you as a shoulder to lean on when times get tough for them. Having to motivate them to keep going and keep yourself going can be taxing, that’s why having enough endurance to support yourself and those around you is crucial.
Building a supportive company culture is a great way to lift the burden off everyone’s shoulder and improve endurance all around.
When you hear the word imagination, you might envision crayons, glitter, painting and imaginary friends, but imagination is a an authentic and crucial quality of a leader in business.
Having imagination is the ability to develop an idea based on something that isn’t currently true and believe you have what it takes to make it come to life. Any leader without the ability to imagine a better future for the organization in which it leads will always be holding back the company.
When Amazon offered first went public in 1997, and a share was only $18, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, and his team imagined the company growing. As of October 2018, Amazon stock is over $1,600 per share.
When Oprah Winfrey started her career as a radio personality in Nashville, TN, she imagined that her career would grow beyond her then position. Now Oprah’s net worth is 2.9 billion, not million, dollars.
Many successful people have had to imagine their success before they experienced it or imagine their business improvements, upgrades, significant changes and partnerships before they became real. You must do the same.
When you are a strong leader in business, those who you lead will recognize it and respect it. While many leadership traits vary from the 5 detailed above, be sure you have these established as a bare minimum set of qualities you concentrate on building.
Finding a highly skilled, hardworking and consistent employee to join your team can be a difficult task. Some companies find it just as challenging to decrease turnover rates of their best employees.
The reason an employee chooses to resign can vary widely. Some get married and move to another state. Others decide to start their own business. They might have a baby and decide to stay home or even win the lottery. Those are all based on circumstances that have more to do with their personal lives and less to do with the decisions made by their managers.
The other reasons good employees quit their jobs are often directly related to their employer. Poor management, lack of advancement opportunities, and the inability to maintain a work/life balance are some of the reasons given by good employees who choose to quit their jobs.
When you are dedicated to keeping the employees you manage satisfied and employed with your company, you must first develop a firm understanding of the top reasons why good employees leave their jobs.
Wendy Durante Duckrey, Vice President of recruiting at JPMorgan, is famously quoted as saying, “most people don’t quit their jobs; they quit their boss.”
It is also one of the top reasons good employees give for leaving a job.
When an employee feels supported, encouraged, and motivated by their superior, they will work harder for them, and remain more dedicated to their position.
If they feel their needs are not being met and their concerns are not being addressed, they are less likely to remain with the company, not due to the job itself, but due to management issues.
Unfortunately, there appears to be a lack of proper training for many who enter into managerial positions. It involves more than paperwork and tracking metrics. Managers must have strong people skills and the ability to develop relationships with those who work under them.
Otherwise, employers who struggle to manage their employees will continue to face the harsh reality that goes along with high turnover rates.
There’s nothing worse than going to work every day, doing your job to the best of your ability, being expected to go above and beyond your required tasks, and feeling underappreciated and undervalued by those at your job.
It is one of the fastest ways to decrease employee engagement and to lose a good employee.
You can make your employees feel valued in many ways including:
The ways in which you can make your employees feel valued are endless and can fit any budget your company has.
While all employees should be made to feel appreciated, it’s especially important to do this for employees who are continually working hard and taking on additional responsibilities beyond what they’ve been hired to do.
Most employees want to feel challenged in their career. Being in a job with no advancement opportunities, be it their position or a significant salary change, will often lead to the search for new employment, especially when they recognize their value as an employee.
It’s important to give employees an opportunity to stay with your company as they improve their skills and advance in their career.
You can do this by making new job opportunities known to employees within the company, so they have first dibs before bringing in outsiders.
Also, check in with your employees at minimum once per year to discuss their career goals. This will allow you to gain an understanding of how your employees are feeling regarding their current position and hopes for the future.
Also, offering educational opportunities and tuition reimbursement opportunities can provide your employee with a reason to remain with your company while gaining skills that can lead to advancement in the future.
Today more than ever, the desire to have a career that still allows for flexibility, time with family and friends, and a healthy personal life is at the top of many employees’ list.
When employees are overworked, it reduces their ability to maintain a healthy a work/life balance.
It’s often found that good employees who show their ability to handle their job and take on additional responsibilities find the weight of their department placed on their shoulders. While it might be seen as a way to show your trust in the employee, it is actually a form of punishment. It shows that when an employee performs well, they are rewarded with additional work and no salary increase.
When you want to give an employee additional responsibilities, it should be a non-negotiable that a salary increase or position advancement comes along with those added responsibilities.
If your goal is to keep your good employees working with your company, it’s crucial that you stay abreast of their needs and wants career wise. In most situations, a highly skilled employee will be able to find another position, so you must consider what you need to do to keep them with your company.
Understand that you are working with people. People who have families. People who have personal lives. People with dreams, wishes, and goals. People with feelings.
When you keep that at the forefront of your mind, you will treat your employees like real people and your good employees will recognize your humanism and be more likely to stay around.
When you treat them like they’re disposable, they will dispose of their position and find another.
As you work to ensure your employees remain within your company, it’s also vital that you keep employee engagement high. It is one of the key factors to maintaining low turnover rates within a company.
If you’re searching for a resource that will help you maintain a workforce that is highly engaged, download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement which features best practices for getting your employees involved in your company’s success.
Designing the corporate culture of a business is a crucial component of long-term success. It’s not enough to just let it develop over time without care, thought, or purpose. You must think about how the culture should look and feel within your company. This should not be one more thing to add to your to-do list, but instead an integral component of your company, just like your products, services, and employee choices.
Before you decide to cultivate the corporate culture of your company, you must have a firm understanding of what corporate culture is. According to Investopedia.com, corporate culture is the “beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.”
You can read more about the specific benefits of creating a corporate culture and how it impacts various businesses here.
Creating the corporate culture of your company should involve an open conversation between everyone in the organization from the top down, but it shouldn’t start that way.
Begin the process by having a meeting with the leaders of your business to develop a baseline understanding of what the foundational values and beliefs are related to
While there’s no guarantee that the ideas you develop during the beginning of this process will make it to the final stage of your corporate culture plan, this is a great place to start before you involve your full team.
After developing a foundational overview of the values and beliefs of your organization, it’s time to bring in your employees.
Depending on the size of your organization and the current culture, this can be done anonymously via a digital format, or in person by having a traditional roundtable conversation.
If your company is smaller and used to open communication, an in-person roundtable meeting might be best.
If your company is larger, or you believe some employees might not feel comfortable giving their honest opinions in the open, it might be best to send out an anonymous digital survey.
Whether this stage is completed in person or virtually, you must set the purpose for the conversation. Explain why you are gathering this information. Ensure they understand the end goal and why their input is essential. Explain to them your next steps in the process.
This helps them become fully engaged in the development of the corporate culture and allows them to respond to the questions with the background knowledge and foresight necessary to give their best responses.
Once you have a conversation with your employees and flesh out the final corporate culture of your company, it’s time to gain buy-in.
Everyone might not be excited about the new culture you’ve set in place. Maybe it’s because they feel the current culture is good enough. Perhaps it’s because they don’t want to see change.
Whatever the reason, it’s crucial to gain buy-in, if only from a few employees to start. This is because when you start a new mission or process, those who believe in it will start the domino effect of support. These supporters will act as role models and express to their co-workers in a peer to peer conversation the benefits of this new initiative.
You might need a bit more of a boost in increasing employee engagement in the corporate culture process. If you are seeking additional support, download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement where I share best practices for getting your employees engaged in your company’s success.
Now that you have a corporate culture in place that you’ve designed, it’s time to implement it. Setting a plan in place is the simple part. Incorporating it in your day to day business practices will test whether you can maintain this culture.
Make sure you stay focused on your ultimate corporate culture goals, and if necessary, you might need to teach and reteach your employees how to operate within this new culture.
Here’s a bonus tip as you’re designing your corporate culture and expecting your employees to buy-in to the process and follow along. You must with no doubt lead by example.
Remember that you are being watched at all times by your employees. Everything in business comes from the top down, so your employees will follow your lead.
If you start out strong in modeling the new culture then get lax around month 2, they will believe the initiative is not very important, and they will get lax as well. However, if you’re serious about it and model the culture on a daily basis, they will see you and hopefully become more serious about it as well.
Make the culture a part of who you are as a leader. Be the biggest cheerleader and supporter of the new corporate culture and hold yourself to a higher standard than your employees. That means if you want your employees to shoot for the stars, you need to be on Neptune. It wouldn’t be the expectation that the majority of your employees land on Neptune with you, but some will rise to the occasion, others will fall short, but at least they won’t still be on planet Earth.
Above all else, remember, your energy is contagious. It’s your role to guide your employees in the design and implementation of your company’s corporate culture.
The corporate culture of your company should be taken into consideration in all stages of your relationship with your employees as it sets the foundation for the values, beliefs, and decisions your business will stand by.
From the hiring process to company celebrations, to administering raises and promotions, infusing the corporate culture throughout the process helps to maintain consistencies and develop a solid belief system.
Cultural fit is a term used frequently in the employee hiring process. It is discussed when considering whether a potential employee would fit into the corporate culture of the company.
The official definition of cultural fit according to JobTestPrep.com is “when a company evaluates how a potential employee may express the characteristics, language, and values that exist within the current organizational culture.”
When a candidate’s values, beliefs, outlook, and behavior are compatible with those existing within the company, he or she is likely to be a good fit.
It’s important to have guidelines when looking for a cultural fit without creating a culture where you only hire clones of fellow employees.
If you focus too much on an employee being the perfect cultural fit, it is possible for the company to becomes homogeneous in views and ideas.
That can create an environment that limits business growth as differing beliefs, ideas, and viewpoints, often spark conversations that lead to ideas that can change the trajectory of a business.
When you consider the corporate culture of your company and seek a candidate who is a cultural fit, it’s best practice to advise them that it will be considered in the hiring process.
Having an open dialogue about this component of the hiring process allows the candidate to understand that they will not be judged based solely on their work experience, education, and employer recommendations.
Incorporating corporate culture can be done through an interview, assessment, or personality test.
Examples of questions you can ask are
Be sure to ask questions that speak directly to the values that are important to your company.
When you’re onboarding a new employee into the company, having further conversations regarding the corporate culture helps to build cultural competency from day one.
You can do this by offering a company values training that occurs in person or via pre-recorded video. Cultural information should also be included in the employee handbook, though that alone is generally not enough training for a new employee.
When discussing values, be sure to offer real examples of how they can be showcased correctly and incorrectly within the company.
Offer an opportunity to have a conversation after the training has taken place to ensure all messages have been delivered clearly and to clarify any potential questions that might remain.
Beyond the hiring and onboarding processes, maintaining a positive corporate culture is vital to the success of a company.
Planning team building activities can build a culture of connectedness amongst employees and showcase the importance placed on that component of the corporate culture.
Here are a few simple examples of team building activities, but there are hundreds if not thousands of options available.
Continued education regarding the culture of the company is also an essential piece of the puzzle. Just discussing it during the hiring process is not enough. Once your employee is in the trenches and facing various situations, those cultural trainings that occurred months years ago are no longer front of mind.
There are many ways to incorporate continuing education into the organization, here are a few tips to consider.
You can also reward those who demonstrate company values consistently.
This can be done by using values as a part of the criteria when awarding raises and promotions.
You can nominate employees each month for demonstrating the core values of the company. You can present them with a certificate, or highlight their work in the company newsletter or staff meeting.
Making this information public helps to reiterate the importance of corporate culture and values in the company.
You can also acknowledge employees in simple ways by sending an email to an employee who demonstrated good values or leaving a sticky note on their desk expressing your appreciation.
One vital component of continuing cultural conversations is to discuss behaviors that are incorrect. When you see an employee demonstrating culturally inappropriate behavior, it’s essential to have a respectful, open, and honest discussion about why their behavior is inappropriate and what a better choice would be,
Infusing corporate culture throughout your organization is vital to the corporate culture process. Ensuring your employees are engaged in the corporate culture is a requirement if the process is going to have maximum effect. If you’re looking to improve your employee engagement, make sure you download a copy of my free book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement. It features actionable steps you can take to ensure your employees are fully engaged in all processes including the corporate culture.