When you have gone high enough up the ranks to have a team of people working underneath you, you might think you should already have basic aspects of leadership, like communication, in the bag.
And yet, a lack of good communication among management is probably one of the biggest reasons for low performance, poor results, and people not getting along or enjoying their work. And, as we all know, finding a manager who is an excellent communicator is rare! It is so important as a leader that the message you give is clear, both in your non verbal messaging, positioning yourself as a leader, and also in your verbal. But regardless of how good we should be, the reality is that most people would benefit from some guidance to improve their efficiency as a leader.
So here are some dynamic tips to help you communicate with your teams in a clear and confident manner, to avoid confusion and inspire action.
1. Know who is the boss
If you are the boss, then behave like the boss! If you are the most senior person in the room, or oversee a team, then let your body language, demeanour and tone reflect this. This doesn’t mean stomping around banging fists on the table and yelling ‘I’m in charge!’, but it does mean believing in what you say, and holding yourself with a sense of ease and poise. It’s important that you are confident in your right to have a position of authority. Make sure you don’t slump, and that your body language isn’t small and inward-looking, but open, responsive and at ease. If you project confidence, then your team will find it much easier to believe in you.
2. Don’t beat about the bush
When you are giving an instruction, don’t beat about the bush or be apologetic about it. Instead, prepare what your instruction is beforehand, and say it with simple steps. It may seem obvious, but take a moment to make sure you are clear before you begin, so that you can be as clear as possible when you start speaking. Don’t be afraid to stop if you feel you aren’t making sense, clear your thoughts and start again. Rather than rattling off your instructions and then looking up to make sure the team are still with you, talk in units or smaller thoughts, and make sure each idea is delivered by making regular eye contact with your listeners. This will naturally slow you down and ensure the team is alert and following. It also means you will notice if someone isn’t making eye contact or is confused.
3. The Sh** Sandwich
When giving feedback to someone, don’t rattle off with everything negative you have ever thought about them and tag a few on for good measure. A single point of feedback or constructive criticism, or at most three or four, will be much more effective than a long list. Also make sure that the points are prepared. And clichéd or not, it will help to begin with something positive, and end with an affirmation. By beginning with something positive you are taking the receiver off the back foot and essentially saying you are aware of the good in them, and you are not just keen to criticise for the sake of it. By ending with an affirmative, which could be simply an empowering statement, you are leaving them with a good taste in their mouth, and at that point when they will be at their most vulnerable, you are giving them something to hold onto. You need to find the right thing to suit the situation – it could be as simple as telling them you have their back – or they have your full support.
4. Drive with a map
A general tip is to set clear objectives. It’s basic psychology, but if people know what they are aiming at, they are much more likely to get there. It’s the difference between driving to Scotland without a map and a specific destination versus having a proper address and a sat nav. So, when you are giving instructions to your team, making a request or summing up a regular meeting or outlining a project, make sure that everyone is clear on the overall objectives – what does a good outcome look like, and what are their specific objectives? The more you can make this measurable, the better the outcome.
5. Remember that being a great leader is different from being a friend
Don’t try to be nice, don’t try to be everyone’s friend; being a great leader is not about everyone liking you, it is about your team respecting you, believing you can do the job and trusting you to take them in the right direction. This means at times you may need to be tough and put your foot down, call out behaviour that isn’t working for you or for the team, and give clear deadlines and objectives. This isn’t ever about raising your voice or being rude: authority isn’t that, but it is someone who is clear in their opinions and able to drive people forward in a direction. It is also someone who can admit when they are not sure, and bring out the best in other people at this time through good management and listening. A good leader knows when to listen and encourage input and when to take over and guide the way.
There is so much to the art of leadership, more than can be covered in a simple blog post. But, if you follow the five tips above, you’ll have started on the path to effective communication in the work place.
About the author: Emma Serlin is an award winning theatre director, social entrepreneur, founder of social enterprise, Soaps and Stories, business woman and founder of London Speech Workshop & We Are Sunflower. Emma is also author of The Connection Book.