If you lead a team, your ability to communicate effectively is essential to their success. Effective communication drives engagement and is key to the team’s ability to perform at its best.
So, what are the essentials of effective leadership communication?
To communicate effectively as a leader, make these practices your communication essentials:
- Build meaningful connections.
- Be an active listener.
- Cultivate a spirit of curiosity.
To fully appreciate the role of each of these practices, it’s worth taking a moment to consider what constitutes effective communication; it’s a question I always pose to participants in the workshops I lead. At its simplest, communication is about a meaningful exchange of information and ideas between two or more people.
Effective communication is two-way. It has a degree of give and take as information and ideas are exchanged, rather than information flowing in one direction only. It’s a process that emphasizes the importance of the ‘essentials’ I highlighted: connection, listening, and curiosity.
Let’s take a closer look at those essentials to understand the role each plays, and what they can do for you in boosting your effectiveness as a leader who values communication.
1. Build meaningful connections
When you connect personally with those you lead, you build the foundation for meaningful relationships and, in time, trust. Begin the process of building those connections by being present for each conversation. Without this essential, communication can be rendered ineffective, superficial and uncomfortable for everyone involved.
Whether it’s a scheduled 1:1 or an impromptu chat in the hallway or online, ensure you use this time to get to know your people and what matters to them, as you have conversations about the work to be done. Do the same when you are spending time with teams and larger groups, whatever the format.
Conversations are at the heart of every endeavour, from problem-solving to collaboration with potential partners. As the leader, it’s up to you to set a tone that leads to better conversations.
- Bring your whole self (mind, body, and heart) to each opportunity to build personal connections.
- Focus on the person (or people) in front of you.
- Manage your internal and external distraction habits. The more you discipline yourself to stay in the moment, the more you will be able to resist sending a text, peeking at your next email, or diverting your mental energy to preparing for your next meeting.
- Invite participants to share their stories. When you do it with a sense of welcome and safety, people feel included and heard. They’re also more inclined to be full participants.
2. Be an active listener
When you bring deep, active listening to your interactions with others, a few things happen. For starters, you open the door to ‘hearing’ what is being communicated —not just what is being spoken. You also convey your desire to hear and learn more, sending a powerful signal to others that you are engaged with what they’re saying.
Through active listening, information and ideas can be freely exchanged, enabling the essence of effective communication —a two-way exchange.
- Ensure you are listening with your ears and your mind, to process what is being said.
- Be open to individual and group conversations, whether in-person or online, and encourage others to share what is on their mind.
- Pay attention to your interpretation of what you think you may be hearing and check your understanding of what is being communicated.
- Invite employees to offer ideas and potential solutions first, rather than jumping in to dominate a conversation or solve every problem.
- Be open and supportive when someone wants to have a difficult conversation or talk through an approach to a potentially challenging situation.
3. Cultivate a spirit of curiosity
Being curious boosts the effectiveness of your communication as a leader. Why? Curiosity goes hand in hand with openness, one of the essential qualities of an effective leader. When you bring a curious, open mind to your interactions with others, you invite the same from them. This often leads to more robust conversations, opportunities for shared learning, and better outcomes overall.
Leaders with an open mind know they do not have all the answers and they are willing to admit that their answers may not be the best ones. As a result, they are far more likely to foster a culture of openness and dialogue in their teams and organizations by inviting and encouraging others to contribute their perspectives.
This ‘essential’ promotes effective communication, as well as stronger performance, growth and development of teams that cultivate curiosity.
- Set a daily ‘curiosity’ intention.
- Ask more questions. If your question is a good one, asked well, it opens the door to powerful conversations.
- Check your assumptions.
- Be curious about your own perspective.
- Ask for feedback.
When it comes right down to it, focusing on the essentials always provides a clear sense of purpose and direction in providing effective leadership communication. It also gives you an appreciation of what matters most. Focus on the essentials of building connections, listening, and being curious, and expect your leadership, communication and overall effectiveness to thrive.