This is the third article in the Leadership Quotes series, and reflects my opinions based on experience and learnings over the past 20 years.
"Great leaders communicate and great communicators lead" (Simon Sinek)
With an endless number of books, articles and blogs on communication….how can it be summarised into something useful and easy to read. By using the basic framework of Why? What? How?
Firstly, this article is about daily communication for leaders. (It is not a training guide and does not provide a step-by-step advice on presentations, etc) However it does talk about the importance of effective communication and summarises the key ways to achieve this.
I believe this is just as relevant, in fact probably more so, in the world of remote working that we find ourselves in today.
1) Why is effective Communication important?
Effective Communication = Feeling Valued = Engagement = Productivity
Effective communication can increase productivity by reducing confusion, stress and conflict and by allowing energy to be focused on work.
It is human nature to want to be valued and this applies to all areas of life, with some studies showing 75%+ of people feeling undervalued are looking for new job opportunities, while engaged teams generate 21% more profit than their disengaged counterparts. (Gallup)
Communicating effectively does not mean that everybody will like what they hear, but it does mean there will be no confusion and everybody will have the same understanding of a situation. Again, this allows energy to be focused on the right things, and this applies whether communication is through conversation, email or instant messaging and whether it be online, face-to-face or over the phone.
When each person feels heard and there is trust in the communication then it shows respect and leads to each person feeling valued.
The “why” is quite simple.
2) What is effective Communication?
"The art of communication is the language of leadership" (James Humes)
The message is clear, concise and complete
The intent and content of the message is understood (the same way) by all parties
It is respectful, inclusive and open to feedback and/or questions
All communication has at least two parties, the sender(s) and the receiver(s) of information and it is important to ensure the message is clear and complete. Effective communicators will understand that not everybody has the same experience or information and so assumptions cannot be made. The completeness of communication means understanding that the receiver may need more (or less) information for context or background in order to clearly understand the message.
The “what” of effective communication becomes a bit more complicated, but ultimately it is communication which allows all parties to feel valued (see what I did there…?)
This means no outstanding questions and no sense of confusion. Where all parties have had the opportunity for clarification and to remove any assumptions.
3) How to communicate effectively
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place"
(George Bernard Shaw)
Context: This can easily change the meaning of a message, even when the content remains the same.
Is a public setting okay or would it benefit from some privacy? How much time is needed for the communication? Is the timing important? For example, if discussing difficult feedback with a team member, then a private setting at a defined time may be better than mentioning it in passing at the coffee machine.
Confidence: Believe in the message you are giving and hear the messages you are being given.
If you are not authentic in your communication then other people are likely to sense this which can lead to mistrust or confusion.
Empathy: Looking at something from another person’s perspective can help communication to be meaningful and inclusive, and will show that you care. It will also help you to understand the impact of context on communication.
Empathy shows a willingness to understand people, it builds trust and a mutual respect, with 92% of respondents in one survey suggesting they were less likely to leave if their leaders showed empathy (Businesssolver)
Listening: We all know communication is two-way and yet how many of us are “waiting” to say our piece without really listening to what other people are saying?
It is usually obvious when this is happening and it can feel like you are being ignored, or that you and your time are not important. This does not foster trust, respect or inclusion.
Be clear, be honest and be true.