Communication is key to leadership. But it isn’t easy to communicate effectively. This is particularly true when those to whom you are speaking are being bombarded by conflicting messages while interacting with one another to achieve their goals in complex organizations.
1. Customize your communication.
Consistency is important, but that doesn’t mean you should speak the same way to everyone. Customize your messages in light of what you know about the listener. Some people like details, some like the big picture, and some people want to hear only about the bottom line. Pay attention to their cues and tailor your communication accordingly.
2. Listen Actively
Good listening is among the most important, and overlooked, principles of great communication. Don’t zone out when someone else is speaking, and make sure that your own body language indicates your interest. Maintain eye contact and respond with small gestures that show you are listening and receiving the message. If you have any doubts about what you’re hearing, try paraphrasing or repeating back what you have heard.
3. Let others finish.
If you’re anxiously waiting for an opening so you can jump and speak, you are not really listening. Train yourself not to think about interrupting other speakers but instead to make sure they have had their say before you begin speaking.
4. Ask simple questions.
You learn the most when you keep your questions simple and open-ended. Why, what, when, where, and how are still the gold standard. If you ask the right questions you will always find the right answers.
5. Be polite.
Don’t check your phone or look at your watch when someone else is speaking. Give the respect of your undivided attention.
6. Use the power of “I” statements.
Communication becomes more productive when you avoid stating your thoughts as facts. For example, instead of saying, “This project is a failure,” you might say, “I am very concerned about the sustainability of this project.” Try to avoid “you” statements (“You haven’t done anything”) that set up a cycle of judgment and defensiveness. Instead, say, “I can see there’s still a lot to be done.”
7. Pay attention to what your body’s saying.
Some researchers find that body language makes up more than half of what you’re communicating. Is your posture open and confident, or closed off?
8. Moderate your tone as appropriate.
Communication is more that words. Tone is also important . Be sure that your tone reinforces or moderates what you’re saying if you want your message to be heard and your meaning to be clear.