Effective Communication for Effective Leadership

researched and draft compiled by Rabab Fatima

article written by Wayne Brown

“Great leaders communicate and great communicators lead.”

                                                                                                             Simon Sinek

Classic example by CEO

I recently had a chance to look at the message delegated by Marriott International’s CEO, Arne Sorenson amid COVID-19 crises. The message was released as a 6-minute video intended for Marriott’s employees, managers, stakeholders and clients. [1]

This video was hailed on almost all the social media platforms. Many claiming that ‘This is what leadership sounds like’.

So, what was it about Sorenson’s message that captivated the masses? To be honest, this video is a prime example of how a leader should communicate.  For this message, Sorenson lowered his guard. He perceived what people were going through and then communicated those exact feelings. He was sincere, truthful, humble and above all he was optimistic. He was real. He was humane. He knew how to communicate.

Effective communication is the primary means for achieving excellence in any organization. Everything in an organization happens in or because of communication. Whether this conversation happens among colleagues during office meeting, between a client and a clerk, within boardrooms or with executives and their employees —- every exchange is meaningful.

Every communication is crucial as it can either lead to a point of success or failure. An astute leader knows how to change these conversations into execution and high performance.

Quantum Leadership Group conducted a survey asking participants to rate competencies of a leader. Six of the top 10 competencies rated by participants involved communication. [2]

Effective Leadership Communication Strategies…

Anyone can take charge, but only a person who knows effective leadership communication strategies can initiate collaboration and success.

“Of all the talents bestowed upon men. None is so precious as the gift of oratory.”

                                                                                           Winston Churchill

Being an executive isn’t just enough, unless you know how to get things done. You can only get things done promptly and properly by communicating with your employees.

Here are a few key points to work on…

1.   Listen

One of the most important traits that a leader should possess is the ability to listen. By listening we don’t just mean words. Listening means attention and keenness must be recognizable from your posture as well as expressions.

  • Pay attention: Listen, not only to the message, but also to the underlying tone or any emotion behind the message.
  • Look at who is talking: While listening to the message, do not be distracted by any other thoughts or any prejudgment or prejudice. It means listening with your whole being— ears, eyes and heart.
  • Make eye contact and don’t talk: Make eye contact with the speaker and let them finish first before you start talking. While others speak, do not talk around.
  • Ask questions: Ask open-minded questions. This would only be possible if you listen carefully to what was being said.
  • Listen to your team: Communication is a two-way street. Listen to what your team has to say. It gives you a chance to learn about their perspectives. It is possible that some of them may come up with new or better ways to accomplish a task. Even if they don’t, they will still feel included.

Active listening helps in strengthening the bond among team members. This enables a team to approach a problem in a comprehensive and understanding manner. A cohesive team can work out better and innovative solutions to a problem. Such a team is updated with the changes and implementations.

Executives that promote active listening clear out their organizations out of the crisis in an effective and organized manner. It is important that you don’t just listen to a person; in fact, make them feel that they were being heard. This way you’ll build a lasting optimistic relationship with you employees.

2.   Choice of Medium

In order to increase the effectiveness of you message, it is imperative that you choose your medium wisely. If you wish to send out a general message, then a text or a voice note is appropriate means to communicate your message to the mass employee base.

However, to discuss sensitive topics or issues that require long back and forth conversations, than email might not be the best option. Such instances require face-to-face communication. As a good leader, you must learn to choose the right medium.

3.   Clarity

Look at the following picture carefully. [3] This is a classic example of why you need to be clear and concise while delivering a message to your team.

It doesn’t matter which medium you use for communication: email, presentation, speech or memo. Don’t be vague with regards to what you want from your team. Clearly let them know your objective and intent from a particular task, any resources that they would need, deadline and any relevant information that might help your team streamline the process.

When delegating information to your team think of ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’, and incorporate it your conversation. It is particularly important to explain reasons (the ‘why’) when talking about deadlines.

People like to know the reasons behind their performing a particular task. Regular check-ins and updates are also a good way of keeping track. You lose time and productivity if your employees have to get back to you every now and than to get clarification on important information.

4.   Transparency

As an executive and a team leader, it is imperative that you should be transparent in your communication. No hidden agendas and certainly no reading between the lines! Strong leaders strive to earn trust from their employees. Your team should have complete faith in what you say and mean.

If you can’t share certain information, come forth right instead of beating around the bush. True leaders know that half answers breed anxiety and distrust. Honesty builds trust. So be it good times or bad, lay it on the line.

5.   Evaluation and Feedback

An astute leader never leaves anything to chance. He/she never assumes that the message they delivered was received by the listeners exactly as they had intended. Check in with your team to verify that your message is understood clearly. Ask relevant questions so that you have a clear picture of where you stand with them.

If, by any chance, your message was not understood; start over. Don’t blame your team. Instead change things up and try again.

It’s okay if you make mistake, a good leader doesn’t go into blame game, rather they accept their mistakes with humility and grace. Constantly ask yourself and your team whether there is room for improvement. Try to take the criticism as it was intended, to help you grow and perform better. A good leader will never take criticism as anything other then a chance to be better.

6.   Consistency and Cadence

Organizations pride themselves on upholding deep-rooted values and principles. Although for most parts they are just meaningless words and gibberish. A good leader always encompasses those principles and tries to relegate them in the day to tasks and meetings with his/her employees.

Remember that the way you communicate with your employees in a particular situation affects the vision, mission and transformation of your organization

7.   Inspiration

Arguably, one of the best qualities of a leader is their ability to inspire people with their words and actions. All of the greatest leaders in the history of the world have been described as ‘inspirational’.

Leaders are usually the ones that have the whole picture in mind and a proper goal that they want their organization to achieve. If they want these goals to be reached, then they need their employees to work hard. For that to happen, the leaders need the workers to see and believe in their vision.

That is what it means to inspire someone and once you have gained their loyalty and trust, they will work to make your dream into a reality.

Example of Leadership…

The world is full of people who have become great leaders or are on track to become great leaders.  All of these people are vastly different from one another and separated by many different factors such as country, ethnicity, race, religion etc.

Even with such vast differences, these people are making huge impacts in their fields and on the world. If you are having a hard time grasping the nuances of being a leader then all you have to do is look closely at some of these people. How they behave, how they talk, how they connect and how they lead. You will find that the majority of them possess the above-mentioned qualities and skills.

One such great example is Michelle Obama. The former first lady has been a great inspiration to a lot of people around the globe. The way she draws in a crowd and earns their cheers is by being truthful, clear and humorous. She is one of the prime examples of what a leader should be like.

She likes to communicate using real and relatable themes which is why she uses personal anecdotes in some of her speeches.  It builds trust with the listeners and inspires them to share in her vision and dreams. Such are the great leaders of today.

Applying their habits and mannerisms exactly might not work for you since every environment is slightly different from the rest and each individual in your organization is unique. But gathering the most basic and general idea about their behavior could lead you to some very promising discoveries about what it means to be a leader.

Learning from these experienced and talented individuals can help you develop you own style of leadership. One thing that you will find is that all of these leaders are/were optimists. They all had grand ideas and hopes about a better future, whether it is for their organization, their clients or even the world. It is an essential ingredient of a successful leadership.

No leader is quite the same as another, but they all have shared traits and behaviors which set them apart from the rest. Study those and become better leaders yourselves.

Why should I focus on Communication?…

Being an executive, you should be asking this question to yourself. Why, indeed, should you focus on communication?

In practice, ‘communication’ is often underrated and downplayed in the world of corporate leadership. Interestingly, when plans go awry, the same executives put blame on ‘lousy communication’. Poor communication, with staff, press or stakeholders can actually cause companies to lose millions in businesses and even spiral them towards deterioration.

In theory, most executives pin point open communication as too ‘soft’ lacking clear parameters and tangible outcomes. [4]

You mistake when you think that communication is no ‘rocket science’. Communication is a unique area of expertise and a fundamental business skill. It may be difficult to clearly understand or measure its value for organizational performance.

To do this, you’ll require a level of subtlety and ambiguity. Communication is about much more than mere words. Non-verbal aspects such as your attitude, voice tone, body language, product quality and marketing, are as important as words themselves.

You must try to manage day-to-day organizational communication in a correspondingly comprehensive manner. It is a strategic instrument and you should treat it as one!

Remember that a good leader is always a good listener, precise, inspirational and optimistic.

References:

[1]: COVID-19: A message to Marriott International associates from President and CEO Arne Sorenson, 20th March 2020

[2]: Katie Schwartz, 10th October 2017, 5 Important Communication Skills for Leader

 [3]: Case Study: The cost of poor communication

[4]: How CEOs can adopt 21st Century approach to Communication, 17th August 2015

Category: Comms 4 Execs

This was the second article in the series on Leadership communication and titled Effective communication for effective Leaders.

NEXT UP: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING GENDER COMMUNICATION

Until then, stay safe and healthy. Bye for now. Wayne

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