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.