You’re not a leader if you don’t have followers.
And how will your team follow you, if they don’t trust you?
Here’s where communication skills play a huge role. Good communication skills will help you to inspire trust, motivate your team and lead your people to great things.
Communication doesn’t just imply the way you exchange information with your team. It includes how you communicate with everyone you come into contact with on a daily basis, from team members to associates, partners, stakeholders, etc.
According to SIS International Research (in a study commissioned by Siemens Enterprise Communications Group), a business with 100 employees spends on average about 17 hours a week clarifying communication.
Poor communication can also be a cause for high turnover rates. If you’re having a problem keeping your best team members around, you might want to take a look at your own communication skills. After all, most people don’t leave jobs - they leave bosses.
Team members need to believe in the message you’re delivering. They need to hear what the organization they work for needs to do, and how they will be enabled to achieve those goals.
Let's see just how great leaders communicate with their team members, and what makes their communication skills stand out.
They communicate clear and consistent expectations
From goals to company culture, leaders don’t leave people guessing about what they expect. And just like good parents, they are consistent with their expectations. This is arguably one of the most important elements of effective leadership communication, because it can have such a powerful effect on people.
Team members whose leaders are not consistent can quickly become disengaged, because they’re never sure what their feedback will be. On the other hand, clear and consistent expectations can keep the whole team on track and motivated. Get crystal clear about what you expect, and stick to it!
They acknowledge challenges
Team members want to know how well the organization is doing, and where its heading. They are probably aware anyway if things are going wrong. But even if they aren’t, your team members will want to be in the loop, and they will appreciate the honesty.
They adjust their style, not their message
Great leaders know how to adapt their style of communication to the person or group of people they are speaking to. In doing this, they consider the background and personality of the individuals. What analogies are they more likely to understand? What references would they get and connect with?
Great leaders consider all of this, and adjust their style to the audience. But their message, the core of what they are trying to communicate, remains the same.
They provide regular and transparent updates
Leaders can usually see more than their team members, because they have (or should, at least) a different vantage point. Leaders are more likely to see if the team is heading to dead end, or if they’re on the right track.
And great leaders share what they see in an honest way with their team members, whether it’s a positive update or the hard truth. That’s because they understand that in the absence of communication, people almost always assume the worst.
The know what medium to choose
Face to face beats phone, and phone beats email. Being told something directly is better than hearing it through the grapevine. You will be able to assess the importance of each message you’re delivering, and choose a means of communication through a medium that will do it justice.
They celebrate both group and individual success
Great leaders are both coaches and cheerleaders to their people, and they are not afraid to celebrate both group and individual success. They communicate their gratitude to the efforts of all team members and cheer them on as they succeed.
They don’t blame
Great leaders take responsibility, no matter where the problem started. They admit their mistakes and they fix things.
As a leader, your audience and your team are both looking to you for the assurance that order will be restored when something goes awry. They also need to be reassured that you are in control. Placing the onus on others will show that you don’t care enough to get over the blaming part and actually solve the issue. Playing the blaming game of "no, you're wrong!" is quite childish, and not fit for a leader.
If something bad happens, take ownership and make sure to offer the reassurance it won’t happen again.
Effective communication is not an easy thing. It’s a choice to be conscious about how you deliver your message, a choice that a leader has to make in every interaction. The good news is, communication can be learned, and practice makes perfect.
Start by implementing at least one of the tips above, and you’ll see how your team’s trust and respect for you will grow!
What communication tips would you add to this list? Share them in the comments below.