Leaders get judged by the way they communicate, the presence they bring and in how they make their teams feel day after day.
Effective communication is the lifeline that can transform a group of people into a tightly knit team and business units into one dynamic organization.
Statistics on the cost of poor communication is shocking.
- ‘Disengaged employees cost organizations over $450 billion per year, globally, including lost wages from unproductivity, profit loss, revenue loss, and the cost of retraining’. ( Conference Board )
- ‘David Grossman surveyed 400 large companies (100,000 + employees) wherein they reported an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year due to inadequate communication from leadership and between employees’.
- In the article, “Top Ten Email Blunders that Cost Companies Money,” Debra Hamilton reported that miscommunication cost companies with 100 employees or less $420,000 annually.
Implementing an effective communication strategy, on the other hand, has a positive impact on performance:
- Businesses are 50% more likely to report below-industry-average employee turnover. (Watson Wyatt)
- Gallup polls indicate that sales increase 20% and profit increases 21% when employees are effectively engaged.
- 74% of employees work harder when they feel their effort is recognized. ( Workhuman Institute )
Power of effective communication
Effective communication helps you and your organization optimize potential by:
- Elevating team morale
- Increasing productivity
- Strengthening customer relationships
- Creating stronger partnerships
- Preventing problems before they arise
- Building trust
Here are twelve powerful ways you can communicate effectively.
1. Articulate your values
Identify your core values, make it known
Let your teams be aware of what’s important to you
Work to align your actions to your values, so they are honoured
2. Communicate humility
There is always someone smarter, more knowledgeable and efficient
They might even be in your team
Your ego can blind you, tell you stories
Choose your words carefully,
Let them inspire, motivate, energize, enthuse and empower
Take pride in your work, however, wrap it with humility
3. Be single-minded in your messaging
Get clear on what is it that you wish to communicate
Visualize the desired outcome and explain it clearly
Share information, directives in short capsules to avoid overwhelm
Reinforce the critical message in all communication
Use simple language, make it memorable
4. Stay Objective
Practice and demonstrate emotional regulation and stability
“Emotion is constantly influencing our clarity of thought and ability to learn; the only real question is whether that influence is unconscious and potentially negative or consciously managed and positive.”
~ Dr Alan Watkins, Coherence – The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership
Focus on conveying what’s appropriate
Keep your religious, political and personal beliefs out of the workplace
You are at there to lead, perform and deliver results, not convert others
Rehearse your style, craft it
Identify your fears, self-doubt, barriers to expression
Read up about emotional intelligence, work with a Coach, practise journaling, meditation, do what it takes to address the internal agitation and resistance,
Move from feeling stuck to being empowered.
5. Rely on data and facts
Seek and share data, then gather opinions
Encourage discussions based on facts, numbers, not just gut feel
Watch out for blind spots, confirmation bias and assumptions.
6. Check for comprehension
Communication is complete only when it is understood
Use simple words, make it easy to grasp
Hack away at the jargon
When its business-critical, ask them to explain what you have stated
Keep lines of communication open
Encourage and reward simplicity as well as consistency of communication
7. Listen More
Listen for the vital message, learn to tune out the noise
Listen for unexpressed requests, doubts, fears
Most importantly, listen to understand and empathize.
The three instruments of Inner Knowing
“An open mind is the capacity to suspend old habits of judgement – to see with fresh eyes. An open heart is the capacity to empathize and to look at a situation from the eyes of somebody else. An open will is the capacity to let go of the old and let come the new ”
~ C. Otto Scharmer in his seminal book, Theory U
8. Ask, Clarify
What you don’t know can hurt you, Ignorance is not bliss
Saying “I don’t know”, “I am not sure I understand” is taking you one step closer to clarity and helping you avoid costly assumptions.
9. Create a safe space
Use open, non-threatening body language.
How you say something is as important as what you say
Ask open-ended questions to enable reflection and insights
Avoid leading others with your thinking
Create a safe for people to express themselves
Remember, ideas, information and insights are more significant than your ego
A mind free of fear has incredible possibilities, harness it.
As an Executive Coach practising for nine years now, I cannot emphasize enough the power of open questions and safe spaces; it has enormous potential to transform.
10. Follow up
Stay in touch with your teams
Murphy’s law lurks at every corner; things can go wrong
Ask for updates
Set clear expectations on the flow of information
Be available to help overcome roadblocks, keep smoothening the path.
Everyone wishes to succeed
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to bring out the best in them
Acknowledge efforts, capture small wins,
Communicate progress with larger teams,
Showcase achievements and give due recognition; else it’s unlikely to be noticed.
Teams are always doing something right and useful; you just need to look out and appreciate them for it.
Create a culture of CANA – Constant and Never-Ending Appreciation
(Tip of the hat to Tony Robbins for the acronym CANI – Constant and Never-Ending Improvement which in turn I suppose is from Kaizen)
Practising these Twelve powerful ways to communicate is essential; however, it’s just half the story, you also need to watch out for and eliminate the following behaviours from your communication.
Behaviours to Avoid/Eliminate
Passive – aggressiveness.
The habit of leaving notes rather than speaking directly to a team member
Not openly expressing disagreement or frustration
Conveying agreement and not following it
Saying one thing but doing another
All of the above will demotivate your teams, cause friction and impact overall productivity.
Using verbal and non-verbal communication to bully, threaten, intimidate, dominate, discriminate is not just plain wrong but will also create a toxic work environment.
As a leader, if you or a team member refuse to take responsibility for a mistake and also blames someone else, the result is resentment and mistrust.
Failure to listen.
It’s essential to listen to feedback, even if it’s hard
When you disregard input from team members, customers, or clients, you lose their respect and over some time, their trust.
Consistently “shutting down” others’ ideas without further thought, dismissing input, passing judgements, labelling or using only negative language can stunt opportunities for growth and create a negative atmosphere.
It’s never a good idea to make issues personal.
You have situations, problems that need solving, NOT personal relationships with your team members.
Keep them separate.
If you are consistently saying, “This needs to get done right now,” especially if it’s not urgent, it can feel controlling, stressful, and disrespectful.
Plan well, get your priorities right and create space and time for good work to get done.
Communication as a leadership skill
The art of communication is the language of leadership.
~ James Humes
Typically the tone in an organization is set by its leaders. If its positive, effective and productive from the top, it trickles down and creates a healthy work environment.
By cultivating your communication skills, you earn the trust and loyalty of your team, your clients, and your customers.
One more thing
If you struggle with communication, this might seem like a great deal of work. But remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
To get you started, I will leave you with one more powerful tip that can positively change the way you communicate:
Mindfulness is the act of being aware of the present moment
With practice, you can bring your awareness to the here and now
You can reduce mind chatter, give your full attention to what’s in front of you
Most importantly, you can think clearly and communicate effectively.
Mindful leadership has immense potential to change the dynamics between leaders and followers in a positive way.
I wish you the best in your endeavour to enhance your communication.
May your communication inspire, and may your leadership impact many lives positively.
Points to ponder:
- What are you doing well when it comes to your communication?
- What must you stop or correct in your conversations?
- How would you like your teams to feel about interacting with you?
Movie – Greyhound (Starring Tom Hanks)
Book – Conversational Intelligence – Judith Glaser
Book – The Miracle of Mindfulness – Thich Nhat Hanh
Ted Talk – How to speak, so people want to listen – Julian Treasure