It’s one of the most important, if not the most important trait that any leader should have. Yet it’s so frequently overlooked as people climb the organizational ladder and relentlessly focus on qualifications and results. Good communication. People too often forget the human side of what they are doing as they go about their daily job. None of us are anything without our team, and as a leader you have to not just have impeccable communication skills, but also inspire those you work with. Unfortunately, when you look around most organizations—one of the most common complaints that people have when they have issues with management, is ineffective communication. The ranks of mid- and upper-tier management is rife with substandard communicators. This becomes a problem on so many different levels, none more so than the fact that it greatly reduces peoples’ performance—and by consequence that of the whole organization.
Here are five common leadership communication traits that need to be improved:
Being in charge is not just about talking and giving directives to those who “work for you”. The good leader understands and values their whole team. They know that if speaking is silver then listening is gold. They listen to the concerns of those around them, analyze situations, and actively seek out the right solutions.
Any team leader knows that problems will always arise. There’s no such thing as a problem-free situation or team at work (and if there is, you are not being challenged enough). Whether it’s a personal issue, personality clash between staff members, or even a customer-related problem, the first thing you need to be able to do is show empathy with anyone who requires it.
3.Knowing when to communicate face-to-face versus email
This has become a huge issue over the last 20 years and is the source of so much confusion and even resentment in the workforce. Think very carefully about which problems are better communicated face-to-face rather than by email or phone call. It’s amazing how often the exact same message will be received very differently when it’s communicated in person. We as humans are social creatures, and being able to look in the eyes of someone, especially in a problematic situation, is priceless.
As George Bernard Shaw once said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. That’s so very true. Whenever there’s a deficit of communication, the void left behind is a place for speculation, rumors, or anger. Never assume that everyone knows what you are thinking—especially if you haven’t said it. Along the same lines, clear communication is also always open and transparent.
5.Understanding how to inspire
The most respected and admired leaders understand that getting the best out of your team means leading from the front and being able to provide inspiration to others. Never be that armchair general that nobody respects. Get your hands dirty and don’t ask anyone to do something that you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself. Show your team you truly know what you are talking about and want the best not only for the organization, but also for them.
These are just 5 areas where leaders frequently fall short. Remember that the communication skills that make someone a competent and great leader aren’t traits that you are necessarily born with. Sure, some people are naturally better communicators than others (that has been, and always will be, the case). But so many skills can totally be learned and improved upon through deliberate practice. The first step is to be able to self-reflect and appreciate what the best bosses around you are doing on a regular basis. After that, strive to emulate them by understanding what they do right—and just as importantly, where you need to improve. Do you need to listen more, show more empathy, or communicate with greater clarity? Focus on those areas. Becoming a better communicator will not only bring you considerable personal success, but will also lift up your whole team and organization with you.
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