When you examine the world’s best leaders, one thing that stands out, is they’re all exceptional communicators. They all have an inherent way of sharing a message that speaks to people’s emotions, aspirations and dreams.
As well as being excellent listeners, great communicators also possess a heightened sense of awareness for their environment. They can read a person or group, by weighing up their moods, attitudes, values or concerns, plus they have the amazing ability to adapt their messaging to the environment without missing a beat.
Most of all great communicators know, that the message is not about the messenger. Instead, it’s about meeting the expectations and needs of those they’re speaking to.
So, how do hone your skills so you can become an excellent communicator? Follow these ten principles for starters:
1. Make it personal: The more personal your conversations, the more effective your communication will be. Traditional business practice always taught leaders to stay at arms length from their teams. But today, this can quickly be your downfall. If you don't develop meaningful relationships, and know what's really going on with your people, your ability to communicate well will falter. So always show them you care.
2. Build trust: When people trust you, then they’re willing to invest their time in you. But trust is not something that can be demanded. Trust must be earned. Building trust begins with making good decisions and always delivering on what you promise. When trust is present, people will always forgive an error, but they’ll rarely forgive you, when it’s absent.
3. Be crystal clear: Communicate with clarity and brevity. Simple and concise communication always wins over complicated and confusing. Everyone is time poor these days, so your ability to weed out superfluous information and make your words truly count (and understood), is a skill everyone will appreciate.
4. Keep an open mind: Any leader who is willing to understand someone else’s opinion, without the goal of convincing them to change their mind, takes their leadership skills to a whole new level. Stay open and genuinely curious to understand other people. Appreciate those who challenge and stretch you. Make it your goal to have a willingness to learn and discuss everything with an open mind.
5. Observe and listen: Just preaching your message as a ‘one-way’ monologue, does not serve you, or those you’re sharing it with. Meaningful and engaging conversations, leave a much longer and more impactful impression. When you put the ego aside, and realise that knowledge is gained more from listening more than speaking, then you’ve taken the first step to becoming a skilled communicator.
6. Give more than you receive: The best communicators are not only skilled at gathering information, they’re also brilliant at sharing ideas and inspiring action. The key to outstanding communication is to approach every conversation with a servant's heart. In other words, focusing more on giving and being of service, than receiving. By genuinely focusing on others needs, wants and desires, you'll receive much more than what you would, focusing on your own agenda.
7. Be empathetic: Having the ability to be empathetic with others and show a level of authenticity and transparency, sets apart great leaders from ego-centric authoritarians. Understanding this core principal of superior communication is what helps turn fear and anger into trust and respect, every time.
8. Know your stuff: The “fake it, till you make it” method, no longer wins over results, or credibility. Great communication, demands great knowledge of your subject matter. Those highly skilled in communicating, not only share the ‘why’ and ‘what’ in their message, but also elements of the ‘how.’ Convincing people to follow you is one thing, but showing them how to do it, empowers them and your message.
9. Speak to one person: Whether you’re speaking to 5 people or 5,000 people, you want each one to feel like you’re speaking directly to them. Knowing how to work a room, instantly build rapport and deliver an authentic message, are quite possibly the best-kept-secrets of a successful leader.
10. Be Flexible: If your message doesn’t get the desired effect, then you need to be flexible and change the way you deliver at short notice. Use great questions that inspire conversation and then sprinkle in stories, analogies and humour and refer to relevant data and facts where needed.
Ultimately, whenever communicating, remember that it’s not about you. Your opinions, agenda and situation, all take second place to those you’re reaching out to.
Great communication is about understanding others and helping them to achieve their goals. Embrace this mindset and your message will be well received, and your reputation gold.