Communication is one of the most important aspects of leadership. We get it wrong a lot. But we can get better; it’s possible to learn to communicate more effectively.
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In today’s conversation, we’re going to talk about the importance of effective communication in leadership, and we’ll share some principles for healthy communication. This is the first in our new series on communication.
For the purposes of this series and this conversation, we’re considering communication to include everything we say and do as leaders.
Words, actions, non-verbal cues, tone of voice, written messages, social media posts… these are various ways we communicate as leaders.
So clearly, this is a big issue, and there’s no way we can cover it comprehensively during this series. But we hope to bring you some useful and helpful conversations to encourage you to grow in this area.
Why Effective Communication Matters:
Communication is the foundation of everything we do as leaders – communicating the vision, communicating the expectations, communicating the challenges, communicating what’s working, providing encouragement, providing feedback – it all impacts the people we work with and the teams we are a part of.
It influences the message we are wanting to share – it can either help it or hurt it.
Communication is about clarity. Communicating your vision clearly gets people to buy into wherever it is you are going but communicating the process all the way through helps people go there with you.
Who are we communicating to?
- Employees or volunteers
- Bosses, supervisors, leaders, owners
- Industry colleges
Where are we communicating?
Communication does not only matter in your workplace or on a stage. Wherever you consider yourself a leader is where your communication matters.
If you are leading in your home over your children, how you communicate matters. If you are in a Fortune 500 company boardroom it matters.
If you are speaking to an audience of 1 in a mentor relationship or speaking to a conference with thousands of attendees, your communication matters.
What happens when we do not communicate effectively as leaders?
When we don’t communicate effectively, it has a lot of unintended consequences:
- It’s hard for people to follow us
- Creates confusion
- Creates a culture of mistrust
- Can cause hurt feelings
- Undermines our authority on a subject or in a role
- Causes people to lose sight of the end goal, get frustrated, and leave or become apathetic
Communication Gone Wrong
Here’s some examples of what ineffective communication looks like:
- Saying one thing and meaning another
- Elusive and vague statements
- Short term directives that don’t sit in line with long term goals
- Being hypocritical
- Harshness/aggressive tone
- Passive aggressive statements
9 Principles for Effective Communication:
1. Know your style
Self-awareness is key in communicating effectively. If you know what your personal style or preference is, it will help you to adjust your communication to the situation or person you are communicating with.
2. Be honest
No matter what your personal style is, it’s always important to be honest when communicating as a leader. This does not mean that you always tell someone all the details about a situation, but it does mean that you don’t lie or mislead the person or team.
3. Be direct – don’t beat around the bush
When communicating about anything, but especially dealing with any conflict or negative feedback, it’s easy to try and “soften the blow” by chatting for a while and trying to ease into it. But this usually backfires and makes the other person feel used.
4. Be clear – clarity wins
Clarity refers to the ability for the receiver to understand your message. When you are speaking and sharing your message, is it clear to the person or people on the other side what you are trying to communicate?
5. Be adaptable – seek to understand the other person
Who is listening? Why do they want to or need to listen? Do you need to adapt your message to match the audience? What barriers does the person have to hear what you are saying clearly?
Earlier we mentioned that we should know our own style; this principle is more about knowing the style or language of your audience, and being willing to adapt your message to them.
6. Be respectful and respectable
Your conduct matters. How you say something is just as important as what you say. The person on the other end is watching how you handle yourself, and each interaction either gains you trust or loses trust.
7. Be genuine
Don’t say things you don’t mean just to be nice or seem agreeable. Don’t be so negative that you can’t think of something nice to say about someone or see a silver lining in a situation.
8. Pray & be in God’s word
One of the best ways to communicate more effectively is to be asking God to guide you in how you communicate.
Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in terms of when to speak up and when to shut up. And dig into God’s word so that you can follow the principles God has set out for us as believers.
9. Be teachable
Watch others communicate well and take notes, ask someone who handles a situation well how they did it. You can learn about communication from books, podcasts, courses, and mentors/coaches.
As a Christian leader, we want to encourage you to continually work on this area of communication. No matter where we are at, there is always room for improvement. Be sure to take something you heard from this episode and put it into action.
And if you’d like to learn how to communicate more effectively, I’m working on resource for you called Confident Conversations. This will help you know how to approach hard conversations as a female leader AND give you a starting point of what to say during those hard conversations.
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