7 Communication Keys to Increase Your Leadership Impact
Posted: March 10th, 2021
"The art of communication is the language of leadership" - James Humes
The ability to communicate effectively is a critical factor to grow as an efficient and successful leader in any industry. Your leadership communication style has the potential to build your relationships up, motivate your employees, create a culture of trust and engagement or to tear the relationships down, stump growth and innovation.
Effective communication is the glue that helps successful leaders deepen their connections to others and improve teamwork, decision-making, and problem-solving.
When there is a lack of trust in relationship, we operate from the fearful state of mind that alters the way we see and experience reality, the way we interact with others, and how much we are willing to engage, innovate, and speak our minds. To be effective at carrying out your company’s mission and agenda it is essential to be able to communicate even negative or confusing messages without creating conflict or destroying trust. When the trust is compromised, your employees see the world through the catabolic lenses of fear and feel like they need to protect themselves and their egos from such painful emotions as shame, rejection, fear of failure or not being good enough.
Indeed, the world we experience is a creation of our perceptions. And if your team perceives that they either cannot trust you or cannot trust the organization they work for, their actions will be focused on self-preservation instead of solutions, possibilities, and growth. Fortunately, you can learn how to communicate more clearly and efficiently, without destroying the trust!
So, let’s take a look at 7 actionable steps that will help you as a leader to become a better communicator, improve the quality of personal and business relationships, and make your leadership style more impactful in carrying out your organization’s vision, mission, and goals.
- Self-Awareness. Understand yourself and recognize your own perceptions, cognitive distortions, limiting beliefs and emotional triggers that shape your communication style and how other people see you. If you don’t understand yourself, how can you ever understand someone else who has a different perspective and set of life experiences than you?
- Take responsibility for your thoughts, emotions, and actions. Let’s be honest, those are the only 3 things that we can truly control in life. The rest falls out of our locus of control. Despite that fact we are constantly trying to be in control or change the people around us.
Remember there is a difference between controlling and influencing external environment and being able to differentiate between the two approaches has been proven to significantly improve your level of productivity and overall satisfaction in life.
Only when you stop trying to control the world around you, point fingers, blame and criticize others you can start communicating with clear intent and prevent miscommunications, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations.
- Build trust and honesty. An organization with leaders who walk the talk, communicate responsively and frequently with clear and dedicated communication policies, and empower others by accountability, help to encourage not only employees but business stakeholders, to have trust in the organization and its leadership. As a leader you don’t select your team, you have a group of individuals that overtime will evolve into a team.
A trusting environment is the key to making sure your team will evolve into a high-performing one, which will, in turn, create a positive culture of engagement that will propel your company’s growth and success.
The secret here is to nurture a trusting environment by measuring and managing the psychological safety of your employees, proactively managing behaviors to make sure your team is behaving according to a social contract, and having zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior.
Remember, if you allow it – you endorse it!
The research has shown that toxic behavior is one of the major constraints that damages trust and stumps an organization’s growth.
- Listen to understand, not to be understood. Active and mindful listening is one of the most difficult aspects of effective communication. To be mindful and active listener you have to be fully present and focus 100% of your attention on your vis-à-vis, listen to what’s being said without jumping to conclusions, observe body language for additional cues, and feed back the information you received to verify whether you indeed received the message that was conveyed.
In your conversations with other people, how much time do you spend thinking about what your next response will be?
Let’s be honest, we have all been guilty of rehearsing the perfect answer or thinking about an advice we can give when it’s our turn to talk. Being a recovering perfectionist an over-achiever, I am sure guilty of that! Most of the times we have our best intention in heart, the challenge is this type of behavior prevents us from really hearing what the other person is saying. And what is worse it makes the other person feel like you don’t care about what they have to say, therefore devaluing their experience. Next time you have a conversation put all the distractions aside and try to be fully present for the person you are talking to. Easily said than done, right? Well, try the following approach as it can make all the difference.
Listen with a goal to understand and be genuinely curious about what the other person has to say.
This will make the other person feel appreciated. Multiple I/O psychology research studies indicate that when employees feel appreciated, they are happier, more engaged, and productive at work.
- Receive sympathetically. When you talk to others, are you more inclined to make quick assumptions about what people mean, or do you take the time to ask them what they actually mean? Normally when we listen in a conversation our mind tends to wander, we try to offer an advice, explain our own perceptions of the matter at hand, or simply hijack the conversation by sharing our own story. These behaviors lack empathy and go against the fundamental human needs for connectivity and belonging. Empathetic listening isn’t about agreeing with another or showing sympathy as a lot of people mistaken.
Empathy is about understanding the core message that someone is trying to convey. It requires us to give others the space to share without interrupting, advising, or correcting them.
I promise, if you take time to be present and listen, you will be surprised to discover how honest a person is willing to become about what their think, feel, and need.
- Uphold your self-worth and be assertive. Multiple research studies show that people who are insecure will be more likely to interact in maladaptive ways in an attempt to protect their egos and hide how they feel about themselves from others. Those maladaptive communication styles are driven by fear, pride, and selfishness and are detrimental to building trusting relationships and positive culture in a workplace.
The most effective way to communicate is to communicate assertively, where you are comfortable expressing your own needs, desires, ideas and feelings, while also being considerate and respectful of the needs of others.
So as a result, you create a win-win situation where other people feel heard and understood, without sacrificing your values and beliefs.
- Stop judging others. Respect other people’s opinions and perspectives and listen for the purpose to understand, instead of jumping to conclusions, thinking you know what they think or trying to convince the other party that you are right. Next time check in with yourself during the conversation and try to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Notice, if you are tempted to invalidate their experience as irrelevant or incorrect, or maybe you feel the need to judge or respond with your own bias. You can certainly feel differently, but make the effort to meet the person where they are, understand, and empathize with their experience. As human beings we all want to be heard, understood, and accepted and it causes us tremendous emotional distress when our feelings are rejected, ignored, or judged. Striving to understand how a person is feeling and what their unmet needs are will give you valuable insight and help to build a deeper sense of closeness and trust.
Always communicate with honesty, transparency, compassion, sincerity, and assertiveness.
Trusting relationships produce different mindset, where people feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their opinions, they can see the bigger picture, focus on possibilities and solutions, and not get caught up in daily routine minutia and what’s the wrong mentality.
Listen to this 5-minute TED talk by Julian Treasure, where he shares 5 ways that will help you improve your listening skills.