Six Golden Rules for Great Leadership Comms
Richard Branson once said, ‘communication is the most important skill any leader can possess.’ How right he is. Whether you’re a first-time entrepreneur, or the CEO of a FTSE 100 company, you need to be a first-class communicator to succeed. How else will you inspire your staff, manage relationships with your stakeholders, and charm the media?
Not only that, but in today’s hyperconnected, social media-driven world, every word you say is vulnerable to public scrutiny and criticism. If your communication skills aren’t up to scratch, you could inadvertently harm the business you’ve spent so long building.
If you want to make sure your communication is on point and your reputation stays intact, follow these golden rules for great leadership comms:
Keep it short and sweet
When communicating, keep it short and simple. Messages can get lost in translation when they’re hidden amongst flowery language or jargon. This tends to occur a lot during presentations. To stop it from happening, list the main points you want to get across and stick to them. This will stop you from going off on a tangent and losing your audience’s attention.
Shut-up and listen
In our modern world, the skill of listening has taken a back seat to some degree. Voice inflections, verbal cues and eye contact have been replaced with texts, icons and emoticons. This, combined with shorter attention spans has hindered our ability to truly listen during conversations. This is unfortunate, because skilful listening enables you to foster better relationships and pick up on subtle details that would otherwise be missed.
One way to improve your listening ability is to practice empathetic listening. Try to feel excited when the person you’re listening to is excited, or show concern if they’re concerned. Reflect the other person’s emotions not only verbally, but also with your facial expressions and body language.
Pay attention to nonverbal communication
Research suggests that nonverbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. Facial expressions, hand gestures, posture and eye contact all play a major role in confirming or undermining your messages. A simple example is when you ask someone how they are, and they say they’re fine, but their shoulders are hunched and their eyes are looking down. This implies something different.
Non-verbal signals can either reinforce or conflict with what’s said in words. So, whenever you’re talking with someone, whether it’s a colleague or journalist, be aware of their body language, as well as your own.
This should go without saying, but being transparent, fair and respectful in your communication will go a long way towards building strong relationships with your employees. Don’t hold your status over people or use fear as a motivator. It won’t do you or your reputation any good. Instead, focus on bringing an honest, positive and ego-less attitude to every conversation.
Acting as a cheerleader rather than an autocrat will motivate your team and strengthen relationships.
Know what you’re talking about
When you’re talking about your business, you must do so with authority. If you don’t have subject matter expertise, people won’t give you the time of day. This is particularly true of the media. Journalists turn to industry experts for quotes and advice. If you can’t add value to the topic they’re covering, they won’t listen to what you have to say, or approach you for help again. To communicate authoritatively, you need to be on top of the trends, threats, and best practice in your industry. Read industry magazines and blogs, research your competitors, and attend seminars and workshops that’ll develop your knowledge.
Learn from the experts
Lastly, spend some time watching speeches, debates, or presentations on YouTube. When you listen to inspirational communicators, such as the late Steve Jobs, or Richard Branson, speak convincingly to an audience, you’ll quickly find that your own communication skills improve.