If you want to be an effective leader, you need to excel in communication, effective communication is what enables you as a leader, to rally your team around a shared vision, empower employees, build trust, and successfully navigate organizational change.
Ineffective communication can affect productivity, company culture, individual and collective leadership and be the cause of working harder and not smarter.
Effective communication is vital to gain trust, align efforts in the pursuit of goals, and inspire positive change. When communication is lacking, important information can be misinterpreted, causing relationships to suffer and, ultimately, creating barriers that hinder progress.
Here are six ways you can improve your communication skills to become more effective as a leader in business and in life.
Be an active listener
According to the late American author and businessman Stephen R. Covey, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
How often do you slow down and truly take the time to actively listen without an agenda? Seek to understand instead of being understood.
You may have to get a point across or deliver information to the other person, but before you do, can you take some additional time to really listen to the other person and hear what that person is saying and communicating with his or her words and nonverbal actions? Practice becoming an active listener with the next person you meet.
Ask effective questions
How many times do you shy away from asking questions? Perhaps you fear asking the wrong questions, looking stupid or think too much about how the other person or team will experience or interpret you.
These are all totally normal thoughts and feelings that come up, but when questions aren’t asked, there is no way to get to the core of the situation, and many people will ascribe their own meaning to a situation, remaining stuck in the unknown. Next time, ask the question if you want to see real results.
Understand and know your audience
It is important to research and get to know whom you will be addressing; each audience is different. Engage with your audience, asking questions and tuning into what could be of value to the people in it. What would be best for them to know and learn? Ask yourself how you can best be of service to them in the moment.
Listen to nonverbal communication
Much of our communication is nonverbal, and there are many studies out there to prove this; you may listen to the words that are being spoken, but are you listening and aware of the nonverbal cues that are being given?
Several studies has found that the tone of voice, facial and body gestures provide critical information: the crossing of the arms, looking away or positioning the body and feet away from the other person are telling signs of not being engaged, open or receptive.
What nonverbal communication traits are you picking up from others, and maybe even perpetuating yourself?
Timing is everything
All great and effective communicators are able to utilize their intuition, feelings and emotional intelligence to feel out their audience. Asking a different question, using an example or story to make a point, reiterating a point and knowing when it’s time to move on are all critical contributing factors to the timing of communication.
Don’t be boring; laughter and humor can improve a learning experience, lighten the mood, lower anxieties and make experiences more pleasant. Be aware of what your audience may need at the moment; sometimes a little laughter and humor can go a long way.
Effective communication is one of the most valuable skills you can cultivate and improve on as a leader in life and business. Knowing how to communicate effectively will change your business, life and whole world. It only takes one small shift to create lasting positive impact.