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5 Communication Tips for Leaders

Words Matter...Regardless of your station in life, both what you say, and how you say it matters. It matters to an even greater degree for those in positions of leadership. Leaders simply don’t have the luxury of choosing their words in cavalier fashion. Whether in written or oral form your vocabulary matters. Few things make an impact, or lack thereof, like the words you allow to flow from your lips or from your keyboard. Even when you think they aren’t, people really are listening to what you say, reading what you write, and making important decisions about you based upon your choice of words.

Do not make the mistake of taking the importance of communication for granted. Put simply, the ability to effectively communicate with others is often the difference between success and failure. Don’t be fooled into thinking your title, education, influence, or charisma can take the place of sound communication skills. While the aforementioned characteristics certainly won’t hurt, they can be quickly eroded and/or undermined by making poor choices in the words you use.

I have always said that most problems in business could be eliminated through the use of direct, clear and concise communication. Being a great communicator is one of the “x” factors in business. Part of what makes a great communicator is not only possessing a great vocabulary, but knowing how and when to use it. Great orators have commanded the attention and respect of others since the dawn of time. They are rarely ignored or spoken over, but they are the individuals that tend to inspire, motivate, educate, influence and lead those around them.

While it would be easy to include discussions on focus, clarity, consistency, active listening, brevity, picking your battles and a number of the other traits possessed by good communicators, this piece is about vocabulary. Vocabulary is the one of the least costly investments into personal and professional growth that an individual can make. Simply eliminating the “you knows” and the “and ums” from your patter can make a big difference in how you are perceived by others. Ask someone whom you can trust to be honest to give you an evaluation of the depth, breadth and appropriateness of use of your vocabulary. Then be smart enough to listen to their feedback and diligently work to correct whatever shortcomings were identified.  You’ll be glad you did…

If you reflect back on your experience and think of those people whom you hold in high regard, more often than not, they will have been gifted communicators. Rarely will the people that come to mind ever be described as having a poor command of language or limited vocabularies. While I could delve into annunciation, presence, delivery, grammar, syntax and the like, I have found that it is the more subtle elements of communication that separate the truly great communicators from those that bumble and stumble through their interactions with others. When you can understand and  incorporate the following five elements into your interactions, you’ll have developed the communications savvy used by some of the world’s best communicators:

  1. Are your words consistent with your character? Will your choices stand the test of time, or will they come back to haunt you? It is important to understand that words are not easily forgotten – they leave a lasting and often indelible impression.
  2. Are your words consistent with your actions? Nothing hurts a leader’s reputation faster than becoming known for being disingenuous. Do your words build bridges or burn them? Do your words engender confidence or destroy trust? If you say one thing yet do another, it won’t be long before you lose the confidence of those around you.
  3. Are your words intended to help or hinder? Do they offer constructive criticism or do they belittle and intimidate? Are your words benefiting others or just yourself? Are your words adding value or just adding to the noise? The goal of every interaction should be leaving others with the feeling that the time spent with you was beneficial to them. If you cannot espouse something helpful, then why say or write anything at all?
  4. Do your words leave room for others? If your words overshadow or drown-out the words of others you’ve simply wasted your breath. Remember that most people don’t want to be lectured, and that it’s very difficult to learn anything when giving a monologue. However great things tend to happen when engaged in meaningful dialogue.
  5. Do your words start conversations or end them? The goal of any interaction is not to get in the last word, but rather to remain engaged in order to create the desired outcome. You don’t learn, inspire, motivate, influence, educate, or inform by shutting someone down.

Bottom line…The leadership lesson here is that whenever you have a message to communicate (either in written or verbal form) make sure that said message is well reasoned, authentic, specific, consistent, clear and accurate. Spending a little extra time on the front-end of the messaging curve will likely save you from considerable aggravation and brain damage on the back-end. If you have any additional thoughts or tips you’d like to share, please do so by commenting below – as always, I value your feedback and input…

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    Pastor Tom

    January 28, 2011 at 6:25 am

    So true and so accurate. I have been reminded over and over about my weakness in this area. There are few of us that are great with this topic, but all of us can improve by being reminded, careful, and better prepared. Like you alluded in the article, being authentic and accurate are traits that make our communication more effective.

      Mike Myatt

      January 28, 2011 at 6:33 am

      Thanks for your comment Tom. For what it’s worth, in the videos I’ve watched of you speaking I haven’t noticed any issues in this area. In fact, quite to the contrary. That said, becoming a better communicator doesn’t just happen by osmosis – it takes work. Those willing to put in the work will see the benefits of their labor.

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mike Henry Sr., Mike Myatt, Bruce Flanagan, Thomas McDaniels, Giorgio Migliaccio and others. Giorgio Migliaccio said: RT @mikemyatt: 5 things every leader can do to improve #communications: http://bit.ly/hSFlkZ #Leadership […]

    Geoff Webb

    January 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Good stuff, Mike. I don’t think every great communicator is a great leader, but certainly every great leader I’ve known has been a great communicator.

    I think the biggest thing in communication is shifting our focus off ourselves and onto the other person. I see that theme running through each of your five elements.

    Thanks!

    Bill Bliss

    January 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Mike,
    Well done! All the points are accurate. I, too, believe communication, whether written or oral, should be clear, concise and in the format that is best understood by the audience. This goes to your point of planning the messages before you deliver them.

    I particularly like your comments about what result your words have – do they start or end a conversation; do they help or hinder. I would add, do they build someone up with encouragement or tear them down with criticism.

    Thanks for some good reminders.

    Bill Bliss

      Mike Myatt

      January 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm

      Hi Bill:

      Thanks for the comment. I’m in complete concurrence that real leaders don’t belittle, demean, or act in a condescending manner toward their peers and co-workers. Very well said Bill. Thanks for sharing.

    Mike Myatt

    January 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Good observations Rob. That said, a leader’s job is to communicate in a way that pierces the practical barriers of poor timing, disinterest, or a self-serving state of mind. If it was an easy job anyone could do it:)

    Thank for sharing Rob.

    Dan Collins

    January 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Mike,

    Some people state and some stimulate. You sir stimulate and engage with your posts. That is a rare and truly selfless communication trait that I respect and learn from every time I read them.
    Thank You.

      Mike Myatt

      January 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm

      Hi Dan:

      I truly appreciate the kind words. Thanks for your support and I’m pleased to have been of some help.

    Abhishek Shivkumar

    January 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Mike, another great article! Thanks for sharing, very effective and helpful tips. On a side note, have you written something on communicating with arrogant people, or handling arrogance? Just was curious to know if you have written on this topic that I would be happy to read.

    Thanks
    Abhishek S

    Haukeborow

    January 30, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Hi,

    I totally agree with the insight that communication is the decisive x factor in business. I guess one of the biggest challenges is to stay flexible during a conversation without losing the goal or the authenticity. Argue as if you’re right and listen as if you’re wrong. The rest is intuition.

    Yours,

    Hauke

    Your words « Management Briefs

    February 1, 2011 at 10:45 am

    […] Do your words start conversations or end them? The goal of any interaction is not the have the last word, but rather to remain engaged in order to create the desired outcome. You don’t learn, inspire, motivate, influence, educate, or inform by shutting someone down.” – Article […]

    ava diamond

    February 1, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    This is a great post, Mike. What I find is that often, leaders don’t stop long enough to craft the message. They don’t think about the best way to communicate a particular message to the receiver.

    Your questions are great one to help leaders become more conscious communicators.

    Brian Hatcher

    July 18, 2012 at 10:57 am

    When talking to others, someone may bring up a point on which you would like to interject some vital comment, so you interrupt. This has not only infuriated the other person but usually ends the conversation and the rest of the time spent with this person is usually useless talk about subjects of no relation to the main reason the conversation was started in the first place. I said all of the above to make this point, carry a pen and a small tablet and when something is said to spark an interjection, simply jot your thought down and come back to it later.

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