Communication: The Secret Ingredient to Effective Leadership

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” James Humes

As fruitcake lacks spirit without wine, so does leadership without communication. Communication is a skill every leader should have — it is the core ingredient to effective leadership.

Leadership, contrary to popular belief, is not about telling others what to do, but rather it is about maximising people’s full potential and making them fully engaged. This requires a leader who can communicate seamlessly and comfortably with different types of people. Since leaders with great communication skills understand others better, they can easily gain their trust and keep them fully engaged creating an environment where creativity and problem-solving skills flourish.

Communication Skills: What makes them so important

On the 20th of April 2010, an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon mobile drilling rig caused the largest accidental oil spill in the oil industry’s history, taking a toll on mother nature and taking eleven people’s lives. According to researchers, this massive crisis in the course of history could have been avoided if the company’s management communicated the right information to the people working on the rig.

A research conducted on organisational communication revealed that more than half of all change programs fail to meet their objectives because of managers who fail to properly communicate the company’s vision and strategic direction to their employees (Decker et. al. 2012). Poor communication, is one of the largest areas of self-handicapping in business organisations (Decker & Mitchell 2016).

On the other hand, organisations who have leaders with great communication skills are 50 percent more likely to report below the industry average when it comes to employee turnover. A research conducted by the Harvard Business Review, supports this. It was found out that leaders who engage with their employees in an ordinary person-to-person conversation, rather than simply issuing orders, are more likely to recapture some of the qualities—operational flexibility, high levels of employee engagement, tight strategic alignment—that enable start-ups to outperform better-established rivals. Having these in mind should be enough reason for you to aspire to develop your communication skills.

Here are some tips on how to improve your communication skills:

• Approach people in a positive manner; be open to and verbally welcome their ideas and opinions.

• Build bridges of understanding and cooperation; seek out common interests and goals and speak to those.

• Listen for and customise your communication to the needs of other individuals (i.e., if they need data to make a decision, let them take the time they need to become comfortable with the data; if they need to be acknowledged, recognise them).

• Ask a lot of open-ended, unbiased, neutral questions that lead the conversation in a positive direction.

• Seek first to understand what the other person is saying; ask questions to clarify; repeat back and paraphrase what you think you heard; convey that you have heard them (they won’t hear you until you hear them).

• Maintain composure; keep your communication constructive. Convey your intent to help and support and not diminish, put down or make the other person wrong.

• Communicate clearly and completely; plan your messages ahead of time to ensure the best delivery and reception

• Express appreciation often and with genuine sincerity

As stated in Paul Madlock’s study for West Virginia University, there is a strong and positive correlation between a leader’s communication skills and employee satisfaction. Since success in leadership is measured by a leader’s impact on his subordinates, people in positions of authority are challenged to hone their communication skills through training and practice.

At People Builders, we have experts who can help you evaluate the current level of communication in your team and then educate and empower them to achieve extra-ordinary results.

Contact us today for a quick chat to see how we can create a culture of great communication for you and your people.

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