Effective leadership communication begins with the essentials

The pandemic has heightened our appreciation of ‘essentials’ – whether it’s essential workers, essential services, or what qualifies as essential when community lockdowns are in play. Communication also has its ‘essentials’. 

If you lead a team, your ability to communicate effectively is essential to their engagement, effectiveness, and success. During an extended pandemic that has added significant levels of personal and professional anxiety and uncertainty to everyone’s lives, effective leadership communication has become more essential than ever.

So, what are the essentials of effective leadership communication? 

To communicate effectively as a leader, make these practices your communication essentials:

  1. Build meaningful connections; 
  2. Be an active listener; 
  3. Cultivate a spirit of curiosity. 

To fully appreciate each of these practices’ roles, it is worth taking a moment to consider what constitutes effective communication, 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. 

First, and most importantly, 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. 

Effective communication is two-way. It has a degree of give and take as information and ideas are exchanged.

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. 

Quick Tips: 

  • 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. 

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 listening to 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.

Quick Tips:

  • 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. 

Quick Tips:

  • Set a daily ‘curiosity’ intention.
  • Check your assumptions.
  • Ask more questions.
  • Be curious about your own perspective.
  • Ask for feedback. 

When it comes right down to it, focussing on the essentials always provides a clear sense of purpose, direction, and appreciation about what matters most – whether in leading a pandemic response or providing effective leadership communication. When you focus on the essentials of connections, listening, and curiosity, your communication and your effectiveness as a leader will thrive.

Michelle Lane

Michelle Lane is a leadership development coach, consultant, and facilitator with 40 years of diverse leadership experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Michelle can be reached at mlane@vibrantleaders.ca.

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