Communicate and Connect
Effective communication is an essential skill for leaders at every level within an organisation. The way you communicate with your people has a direct impact on how engaged they are and how they feel about the organisation. We also know that an employee’s level of engagement has a direct impact on their productivity, commitment and how they serve the customer. This in turn, can greatly influence the overall commercial results for the business.
Research indicates that effective leaders are generally effective communicators. In fact, leadership and communication are inextricably linked. How can you encourage, motivate and inspire your teams towards greatness if you cannot communicate effectively? Good leaders communicate with their people by engaging with them in ways that build trust and mutual respect. They are able to effectively reach out and connect beyond the words they use. They strive to create an environment where honesty, trust and respect abound.
I recently came across an article with the headline ‘Successful Leaders are Great Communicators’. by Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss. The headline itself makes a clear linkage between communication and leadership, a linkage that I strongly support. There is no doubt that, in order to be a successful leader, you need to practice and master the art of communication and connection. The article discusses three ways in which you can become a more effective communicator and enhance your connections with your employees. The three suggestions are:
- Be Transparent. This is a simple concept – make a commitment to share what you can with your people whenever you can. Focus on those topics that seem to generate a lot of speculation and chatter around the office, such as product innovations or organisational changes. It is important to regularly share information with you team and regularly seek their input and feedback on the issues that are important to them. When you’re not able to be share all the information with your people, make sure you share the reason with them.
- Be Authentic. If transparency relates to what you’re communicating with your team, authenticity relates to how you communicate with them. Being authentic means sharing information in a way that is genuine, removes barriers from you and your audience, and avoids the over-use of industry jargon and buzz words. Play to your strengths as a communicator – if you’re more comfortable in small groups, try to catch up with your employees in a series of informal chats over coffee, rather than a large town-hall meeting. The best way to deliver the message, whatever it may be, is in a way that allows you to authentically connect with your audience.
- Be Vulnerable. Most leaders will instinctively try to avoid admitting they have made a mistake or do not have all the answers. But it is exactly this show of vulnerability that can help build trust with your people. Don’t dodge the tough questions – such as “why did this fail?”, or avoid providing an honest response – such as “I made a mistake”. Face the tough conversations head on and don’t shy from showing your people your vulnerable side.
Being an effective communicator does not require any special skills or talents. It simply requires you to connect with your people by being transparent, authentic and vulnerable. By applying these three principles in all your communications, you will be building the foundations of an environment where your people and your customers will trust and respect you. This can only lead to more engaged employees that create more satisfied customers. As Oprah Winfrey says ‘Great communication begins with connection’.