When you think of great leaders in business, politics, sports, or any other field, you probably remember how their words affected and motivated you. Communication is a central leadership skill, one you can’t neglect if you want to succeed in your career. Here is some advice for getting your messages across:
- Get personal. Let people know what you think. Don’t parrot your organization’s press releases, nor try to hide your true opinions with vague language (“mistakes were made”). Honesty will earn people’s trust. They’ll accept what you say because they know you’re willing to take responsibility for your words.
- Adjust your style. Always remember that different employees process information in different ways, and that what works with a single worker won’t necessarily translate into an effective message for a group. Some people want all the facts up front; others are more comfortable starting with the context and background before moving into the issue at hand. The better you understand how employees respond to information, the more effectively you’ll be able to tailor your messages.
- Listen to people. Good communication flows in two directions (or more). You can’t craft compelling messages if you don’t know what your recipients are thinking. Be patient when employees need to speak to you; paraphrase what they say to confirm that you’re getting an accurate picture. Pay attention to nonverbal cues, like facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
- Master the data. Not just numbers, but facts. Analyze your own assumptions—which sources of information do you automatically believe? Are they always correct? Collect information from your employees and other credible sources before making up your mind, and confirm your accuracy before announcing a decision. Use concrete data and specific examples to support your case so everyone can see where you’re coming from.
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