For leaders in today’s business world, effective communication is a really big differentiator.
And yet time and time again I’ve heard the excuse, “Communicating effectively is just too tough.”
The Real World
With so much information flying around from so many places, the ability to ensure you’re understood and employees are prepared to take action on your path forward is critical to your individual and organizational success.
In a perfect world, communicating with other people would be as simple as saying what we mean.
But in the real world, saying what we mean…just isn’t always very simple.
And while some things are out of your control, when it comes to communication there’s a great deal you can control.
Communication comes down to creating a conversation by expressing thoughts and emotions through the rather limited vehicle of language. Our preferred modes of communication—speech and writing—are limiting by their very nature, but even so, most of us don’t master them or use them to their fullest.
It’s not as though we’re confined to hieroglyphics and smoke signals.
We have a pretty sophisticated set of tools at our disposal—both in terms of delivery mechanisms and our abilities to shape messages creatively, convey a single idea in a number of different ways, tailor our approach to resonate with different audiences, listen carefully to feedback, and so on.
The Simple Reasons Communicating Effectively Seems Difficult
Communication is the sum of several different variables—some of which we can control, and many of which we can’t. The most effective leaders know having a message is only the beginning.
In order to get that message across so that people hear it, absorb it, and understand how it affects them, you must also consider context, audience, delivery and more.
My real goal is to isolate the factors we can control and recognize those we can’t, so that instead of making excuses, we can start making efforts to improve our ability to communicate in ways that influence and inspire others.
That is, after all, what we’re trying to achieve through communication, isn’t it?
Here are a few of the reasons communicating effectively is tough:
- The learning process is daily and ongoing, not something you can master by simply taking one class (although that’s a great start)
- Communication is personal and an approach that works with some people may fail with others
- Communication involves being able to anticipate the needs of your audience
- We’re communicating even when we’re not
- Everyone can learn to communicate well—someone might need to show you how, and its takes practice
Become an Outstanding Communicator
Appearances can be deceiving though, especially if you’re committed to improving your communications to achieve your business goals.
Here’s what you can do today to elevate the level of your communications:
- Take responsibility for ensuring that communication happens, and happens in the right way—communication begins and ends with you. Don’t expect others to do the heavy lifting. No one can translate information and help your employees make sense of it as well as you can.
- Recognize that communication is an instrument of strategy, and a strategy itself. Effective communication helps you turn strategy into action, both for your goals and the goals of the organization.
- Take time to understand your audiences’ communication needs. With attention to your audience and individual needs, you learn to shape your message in ways that resonate and break through the clutter.
- Plan communication and recognize communication doesn’t just happen. You can “wing it” and take a chance on the results, or you can be planful and purposeful, and succeed. Effective leaders make their communication look seamless; that’s the result of planning and practice.
- Go beyond information sharing to real conversation—communication is about dialogue. Think of a tennis match and how invigorating it is to watch a great exchange of shots.
- Use stories to create an emotional connection. People follow leaders because of how leaders make them feel. Tap the feeling side of others with stories.
- Ensure your actions follow your words. People watch what you do more than they listen to what you say.
It takes skill and practice to ensure that the actions we inspire are the ones we want. With thought, attention, and practice, you too can become a great communicator.
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