One vital trait that distinguishes great leaders from poor leaders is the ability to communicate with both transparency and compassion. This is a key aspect of not only individual development, but employee development as well. According to Harvard Business Review, two of the top six traits for great leaders are communications skills. It is absolutely essential for leaders and their teams to possess effective communication skills in order to overcome challenges, reach their goals, and enable their organizations to grow and succeed.
“Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.” — Gilbert Amelio
Communication is critical for leaders as it enables them to share first-hand knowledge and experience with their employees. As we have mentioned before, it is extremely important to lead from the top down and lead by example. To communicate more efficiently, leaders must understand the core principles of communication. Effective leaders think with clarity, convey ideas, and share information with a multitude of audiences across the entire organization, as well as with partners, customers, shareholders, and influencers.
Common Barriers in Leadership Communication
Despite effective communication being an essential leadership skill, it is still often overlooked throughout a lot of organizations. In more cases than not, leaders tend to think their communication is better than it really is. Below are some common barriers for great leaders to overcome:
- Resistance to change: When leaders are resistant to change, they often are concerned too much with making mistakes or fail to communicate properly and have the right protocols in place.
- Uncertainty or lack of clarity: This can happen when a leader or leadership team is unsure of what to communicate, or how to communicate the message appropriately. To deliver a clear message and get your point across, you need to give your employees context that they can understand.
- Conflict in the organization: Workplace conflict can occur for a variety of reasons and becomes a large barrier for effective communication. This is a great opportunity to improve your communication and find resolutions to the conflict at hand.
- Varied communication styles: Everyone has their own communication preferences; some need direct approaches while others prefer more indirect. This also takes into account too many assumptions or viewpoints, as leaders and employees have different ideas and perspectives on the messages being communicated.
- Disruption: Interferences affect the ability for leaders or teams to concentrate on what is being communicated due to a busy surrounding, emails and calls, or other interruptions.
- Lack of communication channels: Either a lack of how the message is communicated, or unawareness of how to appropriately communicate through various channels such as in-person, email, or meetings.
- Dishonesty or lack of transparency: Effective communication cannot happen when there is a lack of trust and if leadership holds back certain information. It will be more difficult for your teams to process the information you are communicating to them.
- Lack of listening: Leaders need to listen just as much, if not more, than they talk. They often do not encourage enough feedback or clarification when communication specific messages.
Barriers to effective communication within leadership teams often lead to decreased productivity rates, limited company culture and values, and poor staff morale. Everyone, especially leadership, should be actively trying to overcome the barriers to effective communication within their organization while also trying to improve upon their overall communication skills. Keep in mind that communication is often done through various channels which include everything from direct conversation, email, and phone to social media and even body language. Giving attention to possible communication barriers will greatly improve the impact and effectiveness of interactions, while also improving employee engagement and knowledge retention.
Improving Your Leadership Communication Skills
Effective communication for leaders can be extremely powerful. Leader communication can not only connect, motivate, and clarify for your teams, but also has the power to do the exact opposite. Poor communication skills can divide, disrupt, and confuse your employees. Research has proven that leadership communication is directly related to the organization’s bottom line. Quantum states that when poor communication transpires from the top down, it can cost large organizations millions of dollars each year.
For leaders to be effective, communication is not just part of the job—it is the job. Thriving organizations will have open lines of communication, from the top down. Below you will find 8 best practices to improve your leadership communication skills:
Best Practices for Leadership Communication:
- Great leaders value transparency: Leaders that demonstrate transparency strive to practice what they preach and consistently have clear expectations and communicate effectively. This requires a desire and willingness to be open and honest with your teams, while also demonstrating a level of humility and vulnerability.
- Great leaders have confidence: If you display a lack of confidence, your teams may feel apprehensive and apathetic. It is critical to display a level of confidence that is unique to you, so it does not come off at arrogant or too forthcoming. Confidence helps to bring uniformity and trust to your team.
- Great leaders listen more than they talk and encourage dialogue: As mentioned above, effective communication goes both ways. Encourage your employees to speak up, provide feedback, and ask questions.
- Great leaders have strong coaching skills: Employee coaching is an integral part of performance support and management because it empowers employees and is key to building and maintaining a self-motivated team.
- Great leaders communicate goals and responsibilities clearly: Giving clear direction is one of the most important tasks for any great leader. By communicating the visions and goals, or something as simple as job responsibilities, leaders help motivate the team to achieve top efficiency and success.
- Great leaders know their audience and utilize the storytelling approach: True leaders naturally demonstrate respect for their employees and their organization and understand that storytelling has the ability to resonate and engage those people. The storytelling approach can also help to build empathy within the organization.
- Great leaders understand the importance of training: A good leader believes that the development and growth of their employees is pertinent to the success of the organization. They lead by example. Leaders know that training is an opportunity for employees to not only improve their skills and grow their knowledge base, but also become more effective in the office.
- Great leaders challenge their employees: Leaders are not just present to support their teams, but they also need to challenge their employees to be the best that they can and reach their full potential. This can include everything from pushing employees out of their comfort zones to mentoring and career advancement opportunities.
Great leaders do not all lead the same way or have the same approaches for their teams. Nonetheless, for an organization to truly be run efficiently and effectively, it must have effective communication at the leadership level. Continue to develop communication by showing confidence and conciseness with all levels of employees. Communicate with distinction by focusing on direction and strategy. Define skills by using storytelling and connecting with your people. Remember, communication is at the heart of every successful organization, and it all starts at the leadership level.