4 Ways to Improve Your Leadership Communication Skills
To improve the morale and efficiency of your team, focus on improving your own leadership communication skills.
Someday, when you communicate with your team, they will all smile, do what you described, and hurry off to enrich the task with their own creativity—just as you asked.
Or does that already happen all the time?
Yes, it seems like a stretch. But you can reach toward it every day. Stretching shouldn’t even hurt.
1. Master performance feedback
Do your team members know that they can hear you out without feeling humiliated or diminished? If they feel safe with you, they can hear you better. Take time to personally connect—what we call Entering with Generosity: before you dive into your meeting, tell them what you’d like to talk about and have a quick personal check in with them. Be specific about intent and time—say, “I think you nailed these parts of your presentation in the staff meeting, and I have some suggestions for next time. Can we take 15 minutes to talk about that?” Help them to be present by giving parameters and asking for agreement—this builds the relationship and engenders trust.
When you see something that requires your input, respond immediately with positive, actionable feedback. Don’t wait for your usual weekly conference. If you are specific and clear about what you need, they will find it easier to meet your expectations.
You have some tough cases? You can be tough and fair at the same time. For many tough cases, experiencing that combination will be a first in their lives. That alone can win some people over.
2. Learn the art of persuasive presentations
Great ideas die when they we give them tepid introductions.
Use everything you know about your audience to decide how you’ll present your idea. You already know a great deal. Then open with conviction and no apologies. Start your story—and it should be a story—right away, without preliminaries. You’ll capture attention, and they’ll want to know how it turns out. Paint a compelling picture of the reality you want to create.
Most important, focus on how they’re responding, not on how you’re doing. This presentation is not about you. It’s about—and for—them. Use what we call Passionate Purpose: How do you want the audience to feel? What outcome do you want? Is what you’re doing taking you there? If you’re face to face, what do their faces tell you? Using active words like welcome, inspire, and reassure will ensure that your intention is clear.
Try writing your Passionate Purposes in the notes section of your slide deck and referencing them throughout your presentation—this will help you avoid the dreaded monotone data dump and ensure that your presentation ebbs and flows.
3. Become an expert in reader-centered writing
Expert in what? If you’re not sure, you are about to learn the most powerful tool in business writing. Reader-centered writing is the written equivalent of audience-centered presentations.
Write a clear, compelling key message: describe the outcome you want to see and tell your readers what’s in it for them if they work with you to achieve it. Then answer the questions you know they will have about your key message. Those questions, and their answers, will divide your document into clear sections.
Write only what they need to take the step you want them to take now. Use their time and yours productively. There’s much more to talk about as the project unfolds? Great. Say it as the project unfolds.
Put clear headlines on your content so your main ideas pop. Then write a section on action items and you’re done. Is it only one page long? Does it score at a 7th- to 10th-grade reading level? Congratulations. You’re learning the art of convincing business writing.
4. Enhance your e-mails
Yes, you’ve just read about reader-centered writing. Those rules hold for e-mails. In addition, since e-mails are a distinct and sometimes dangerous category in business communications, try applying these tips to stretch yourself into greater competence.
- Most of your communication is done through email—this means you need to know how to build relationships while you’re productively transmitting information. In your e-mail’s intro, comment on or ask about something personal. Did they recently take a vacation? Are they a sports fanatic? Are they in the middle of a home renovation? Connect with them on a personal level to stand out.
- Be positive. Negativity has no place in a communication tool that is impossible to delete from all corners of the business.
- Model the kind of writing you want. (See item 3 above.)
- Refer to the company’s core values, as in “Our commitment to fairness means that we need to compensate you all for those unplanned weekend hours it took to get the project out on time.” That’s good news wrapped in a reminder of the group’s shared commitments.
Does all this sound like a stretch you can reach? Superb! You can achieve a two-for-one with these four tips: improve your business communications and improve business strategy at the same time.
Now treat yourself: you may download the first chapter of Write Like a Leader for free!