One of the biggest challenges new managers and entrepreneurs face is getting their direct reports and others to
a) Understand and embrace their vision
b) Work towards achieving operational excellence
Many often overlook the impact their communication has on direct reports and organisational performance. The truth is that it's impossible to be an effective leader without being an effective communicator.
What does that mean, exactly? For our purposes, I define communication as a process that involves at least two parties: a sender and a receiver. It encompasses all forms of communication; verbal, non-verbal (e.g. facial expressions), written, or even visual (such as graphics, pictures, etc.).
However, effective communication is not just about conveying a message; it's equally essential for the recipient to understand and interpret it correctly.
Because communication is fundamental to leadership, it's worthwhile to take a moment to explore the different types of communication used in the workplace and discuss strategies for improving leadership communication skills.
Understanding the Essence of Communication
Too often, we fall into the trap of cliché images of communication; one person talks, another person responds. However, effective communication demands a higher level of engagement that can only come from a well-developed emotional intelligence, i.e. the ability to seek understanding beyond the words. In other words, when a manager delivers a message, employees shouldn't just react. This isn't about barking orders and blind acceptance.
Instead, it's about ensuring the person or people being communicated with have the proper context to decipher and internalise the message. So, when formulating a message it should take into consideration the ‘lens/filter’ of the receiver that is influenced by receiver’s context, frame of reference. Furthermore, it is crucial that when formulating a message we take into consideration the message answers the ‘what’s in it for me’ of the receiver. When somebody receives a message, then it is key for the recipient to try to understand the messages that is being conveyed. For example, an employee goes to their manager to discuss an issue, but the employee appears angry. Maybe they're talking emphatically or even shouting. The manager has two options:
a) React to the employee's anger, possibly responding in kind with emphatic speech.
b) Try to understand the underlying reason for their anger.
Whatever the reason for the employee's anger, it is likely to be lost when communicated to others who will have difficulty looking past the tone of their communication and focusing on the substance of what they're saying. Yet, the cause of their anger could be an essential aspect of the business that needs to be addressed.
In the example above, looking past the anger and understanding the root cause of their frustration is crucial. The manager can achieve this by asking questions, seeking confirmation of their understanding, and ensuring they receive the intended message.
That is, effective communication requires the use of emotional intelligence to decode messages. They need to get to the core of what's essential in a message, verify their understanding, and respond constructively.
When communicators have a conversation about their communication in order to understand it and improve it, it is called meta-communication. This is a valuable exercise to improve also the relation as there is understanding for the manner of communication and adaptation where needed.
Of course, the other side is how they communicate with their colleagues and direct reports. Let's examine the communication types a leader must most often engage in.
Different Types of Workplace Communication
In the workplace, various types of communication are essential to facilitate effective teamwork and leadership. Just remember that all communication needs to resonate with the audience and should address what's in it for them. Let's take a closer look at some fundamental types.
1. Inspirational: This type of communication focuses on conveying the leader's vision. When people feel inspired, they connect emotionally to the purpose, leading to higher engagement and better performance. You can use metaphors and storytelling to effectively convey your messages, to improve how well others understand and interpret them correctly.
2. Informational: People often struggle to retain large amounts of information. It's crucial to keep informational messages concise and highlight what's in it for the listener. Repetition cis key here to ensure the message's significance is understood.
3. Consultative: When consulting, ask questions and be thorough. Ensure you provide valuable insights and answer the "what's in it for them" question as the reason for you to consult them.
4. Motivational: Think of motivating the same way a sports team coach encourages their players. Communicate achievements and bridge the gap between where the person is currently, where they need to go to achieve the goal, and how they'll get there.
5. Feedback and 1-to-1 Communication: When delivering feedback, focus briefly on a lookback and the feedback. By that, I mean looking back at what was done but also focus on what comes next. While addressing improvement aspects is essential, avoid the sandwich method, which places constructive feedback between two pieces of positive feedback. Instead, bring up the issue (the look back), and provide forward-looking recommendations (feed-forward). This way the core (improvement) message has the most chances to be understood. (Tip: You can ask for confirmation of receipt/understanding J)
A simple way to Improve Your Leadership Communications
There are essentially two things every good leader does that make them effective communicators—and, thus, influential leaders. To become a better communicator in the workplace, consider the following:
- Work on Assertiveness: Formulate and convey your message confidently, non-arrogantly with respect for the receipient. Express dissatisfaction without making it personal and propose solutions.
- Keep It Simple and Consistent: Try to convey at most 3 key points. Start with high-level points, then delve into each one. I like the 3x3x3 format. This means communicating 3 main points and for each of these points, providing three sub-points with detailed information or explanations. Additionally, you should repeat the the three points to emphasise and reinforce the content. This approach is a systematic way to organise and convey information effectively, ensuring that important details are covered, and that the audience remembers the key concepts.
Communication is a complex process, and transformational leaders will only become effective when they master that process by applying emotional intelligence. Remember that the key to success in any organisation lies in the ability to communicate effectively.
Are you ready to become a Growth Leader? We can help! Schedule a free clarity call and we’ll have an effective exchange in how to improve communication within your organisation.