How you communicate can dramatically impact your effectiveness as a leader.
Poor communication can hurt the trust and influence you have with your team, waste a lot of money and time having to redo what could have been done well the first time, kill productivity, and keep problems hidden till they grow too large to ignore.
Great communication builds influence and trust, reveals problems and issues early on, and not only saves but can increase productivity and revenue. You will be more respected as a leader because of it.
It’s important that you learn how to communicate more effectively, and in this article, we are going to show you how to do that.
(If you want to see what mistakes we often make when we communicate as leaders (and what to do instead), make sure to also read our article: The 12 Communication Mistakes You Should Avoid as a Leader.)
Table of Contents
1. Communicate frequently (“Overcommunicate”)
One mistake leaders make is that they only communicate something one time (or very little). It’s one and done.
They’ve said it once, so that should be enough. Their employees should know.
No. Wrong. Don’t do that.
If it’s important, it needs to be communicated – a lot. Frequently. In fact, overcommunicate it.
For example, if your mission and values are important (and they should be), then that should be something communicated frequently. It’s part of who you are as a company. Let it be part of your normal speech.
If certain goals are important, communicate them frequently.
Going beyond that – let appreciation and gratitude to your employees be frequent as well. Don’t let it be a yearly review thing – make sure your people know they are seen and their efforts are recognized.
2. Communicate openly and transparently
Sometimes leaders fear sharing information with others. They fear how they may respond or what they will do with the information.
They may not share because of arrogance or a power play.
You want to be as open and transparent as you can be with your team. You want to share all the information you can with them.
You want this for a number of reasons.
- First, it shows trust in them. You are letting them know you trust them with the information, and it builds trust back toward you and helps build your influence.
- It helps kill rumors because there’s nothing to rumor about – you’ve given them all the information.
- It also helps your people do their jobs better. When they have all the information, they can prioritize better and make better decisions.
Unless it’s for legal or similar reasons, as much as possible, be as open and transparent as you can be.
3. Be clear, concise, and direct
Sometimes people think complex and complicated makes them look smart and professional.
It’s when you write clearly where people can understand that you look like you can communicate well.
When you write, you want to write as clearly as you can. Don’t use jargon or gobbledygook. Don’t use big words for the sake of big words.
You want your content to be clear, concise, and direct.
If you are giving instructions, for example, you want it to be simple. Complexity just confuses.
Don’t be about trying to look “smart”. Be about communicating so that others understand what you are saying.
Write with clarity.
4. Know your audience
Part of good communication is knowing whom you are communicating with.
If you are talking to a group of kids, you aren’t going to talk as you would to nuclear physicists.
If you are talking to new moms, you would talk to them differently than you would to women who are reaching retirement age.
Knowing your audience matters because it helps you match the content you use with those who will consume it.
It will help you match the language, the words you use, the examples you give, and so on to the audience you are giving information to.
Even communicating with employees at a different plant or location can sometimes require you to communicate differently.
Know your audience and match your communication to your audience as much as possible.
5. Know what you want to communicate (your main point)
Make sure you know exactly what you are trying to communicate. You should be able to state what you want people to get out of your communication in a sentence or two.
If you can’t explain the main point you are trying to make yourself, how can you expect your audience to understand it?
Before you craft your message, make sure you know what you are trying to communicate. As you present it, make sure those who receive it understand it.
6. Be consistent in your messaging
This can be applicable in many ways (for example, branding), but the main focus here is on how you are consistent with what you tell your team and employees.
If you are constantly changing your message, what’s important, what priorities are, what direction people should take, etc., then you are hurting yourself and your team’s productivity.
You are also causing confusion and frustration.
Yes, sometimes things do need to change, but constant flip-flopping or indecisiveness is not healthy.
This also applies to your actions as well. Do you model what you say is important? Do you say something is important, but then let people slide when they don’t do it?
7. Speak to people as people (don’t be pretentious)
Some leaders can be arrogant and act arrogantly.
Some may talk down to their teams or even treat them like they are ignorant or can’t understand the “grand” things they know.
Don’t be that way. Don’t speak as if you are better than someone or know better.
Speak to people as people, as humans, as equals. Don’t make yourself better than you are. Speak with humility.
8. Check assumptions and give clear expectations
It’s easy to make assumptions and communicate based on those assumptions. You may assume someone knows what you know or views something the way you view it.
If you aren’t careful, you can set expectations based on those assumptions, and then the results you get end up not being what you want.
Instead, check your assumptions. What are you assuming they know or understand, and what do you know for fact?
A good practice is to just ask questions. Ask questions and make sure how they view it is the same way you do.
Also, be careful about assuming you know about problems and issues when you really don’t. That’s one reason why listening (a vital part of communication) is so important.
9. Model what you communicate
Your actions need to match your words. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work. If you say something is important, but don’t live it out yourself, no one will believe it is important.
If you say your mission and values are important, but you don’t treat them as important, then they won’t be seen as important. If you say this new initiative or goal is important, but you don’t make it a priority yourself, few to no one will either.
If you say something is important, you must show it is important with your actions.
This also goes with when negative things are happening. If overtime is going to be required or there’s going to be a pay cut or whatever it is, model it yourself.
10. Be timely
Be timely with your communication. Don’t wait too long to share information on what is happening, especially if there is potential bad news.
The more you wait, the more rumors will likely begin circulating. And, unfortunately, as humans, we often assume the worst.
It’s okay if you don’t have all the information yet. Let people know what you know and keep them informed as time goes on.
Waiting when you shouldn’t just hurts you.
11. Listen and listen well
An incredibly important part of communication is listening.
Too many leaders don’t listen well. Some don’t know how. Some don’t realize its importance. Some don’t realize how detached they are from reality.
Some are arrogant and think they know better. Some are insecure and fear looking poorly.
It doesn’t matter.
If you want a highly functioning organization with engaged employees, listen.
One of the greatest tragedies of many workplaces is that employees feel unheard and their voice doesn’t matter.
You want to listen to your employees for many reasons. One, as just mentioned, it helps them feel heard and understood, especially if you actually care. Your employees also likely have many great ideas on how to improve situations and processes. Listen to them and implement what you can.
It also lets you know about problems before they become too big. It lets you know about ideas that could exponentially benefit your organization.
Listen well. It’s worth it.
12. Create systems for feedback to happen
Make sure that feedback can get to you, no matter your position in the organization. You don’t want feedback hung up by some poor middle manager who just doesn’t personally like the feedback.
Too many organizations don’t have a way for people to offer suggestions for improvement or to share problems. It’s demoralizing to employees when they don’t have a way to share.
Yes, it’s good for people to go to direct managers for many things, but feedback needs to be able to go beyond that as well. Sometimes direct managers aren’t good. Sometimes it doesn’t relate directly to the team or the direct manager.
If an employee has a way to improve the computer network, that idea shouldn’t have to get vetted by their direct manager (who may or may not be an effective leader) before it’s sent up. Your organization could be missing out on so many good ideas that are blocked by an unhappy and anal manager.
Create systems where people can easily share feedback.
It’s important that you communicate well as a leader
As a leader, you want to communicate the best you can because it will benefit your organization, your employees, and your team in so many ways.
Take some time, examine these tips, and see what you can begin implementing today.
And, if you want to see what mistakes you could be making when communicating, make sure to check out this article.