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You talkin' to me? How to improve your leadership communication

Truth bomb: A lot of bosses have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to talking to their team and contacts. Are you one of them?

by Catie McHugh
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Truth bomb: A lot of bosses have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to talking to their team and contacts. Are you one of them? Perhaps you’d just like to avoid the people skills pitfalls of leadership when you’re finally in a position to realize your dream of world domination.

On the surface, communication may not seem that relevant when it comes to effective leadership, and being a good boss. You’ve built a company, you’re keeping it afloat, you give your staff direction and make sure their paychecks clear… that’s a boss, right? It’s certainly one type of boss (a common one), but it takes much more to be an effective, inspiring leader.

And it all starts with clear, constructive communication. The Harvard Business Review conducted a study of poor leaders, who sought to improve their leadership skills. Over an eighteen-month period, they tracked the progress of the study subjects, making careful note of what those who were showing vast improvement were doing. They discovered that, overwhelmingly, those who jumped from being deemed a “poor” boss to a “good” one were consciously improving their communication with staff, peers and clients.

If you’d like to really wow those around you, lifting them up with inspiration, insight and empowerment like some sort of startup Oprah, then let’s take a look at some of the things you can start thinking about when you communicate:

Do you actually value communication?

It’s very difficult to engage with and stick to something that you don’t find important - that’s why closets all over the world are filled with TV shopping ab-busters and ceiling dusters.

If you really don’t see the point in a special concentration on communication within your business, perhaps this will sway you:

  • In a survey of one thousand US employees, 91% of them specified communication issues as something that can drag executives down and make them less attractive leadership prospects.
     
  • A study by Fierce revealed that 86% of employees and executives deem lack of collaboration or ineffective communication as the reason for workplace failures.
     
  • Emotional intelligence is an essential ingredient to success and will make you a more effective leader.

You don’t have to spend your life in a song-and-dance routine with your employees, but engagement breeds engagement, and it’s conducive to a much happier, more productive workplace.

You’ve got to get real.

If there’s one thing many people can see right through, it’s someone ‘faking it’. You’re not going to light up the hearts and minds of your staff by forcing smarm and charm.

Sometimes, being ‘real’ is damn scary. You’re meant to be the boss, you know? You’ve got to have all the answers, you’ve got to be completely neutral and never let anything get to you. To open up to an employee about being a little stressed, or asking them about their personal difficulties could shatter the smoke and mirrors forever.

Except, it won’t.

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, has said: “Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.”

Sandberg advocates authentic communication for successful leadership, pressing the importance of honesty in great decision making, among other things. Honesty is a powerful tool to have in a workplace, and you need to work hard at establishing mutual trust.

Take the time to offer praise where it is due, learn people’s names, share your fears. You don’t have to be perfect, and especially in these emotive modern times, no-one expects you to be a robot. Creating a trusting, collaborative environment is a business stimulus that can lead to great things.

Go deeper.

If your head is swimming at the thought of juggling all sorts of different personalities, attitudes and styles while remaining focused on what you yourself could be doing better, then it might be time to introduce a bit of science.

You see, we’re simple creatures a lot of the time, us humans. Using a people analytics tool like Fingerprint for Success (F4S) with your team can help you accurately understand how each member of the crew prefers to communicate - at F4S, we’ve identified that usually, there will be a preference for affective (that is, expressive and at times emotional) communication or neutral communication. Once you are aware of that preference, you can match styles with the individual to really resonate with them and smooth over any misfires (if you want to see this in action, check out this case study).

At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel cared about and heard. And placing importance on great communication can be the crux of keeping individuals thriving and operating at their highest performance for your business.

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