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Effective Leadership is About Communication

Use these 5 communication checkpoints to refine your communication style and inspire action.  Whether you are a leader of a team or an individual contributor, effective communication is essential for collaboration and progress at work. Many people don’t realize that communication is not only about what you communicate but also how you communicate. A message, whether expressed vocally or in writing, is much more impactful and successful when we take the time to refine our communication style.

Great communication can turn an underperforming, stagnant team into a motivated, action-oriented team. Great communication can turn frustration into inspiration. Use these 5 checkpoints to elevate your communications at work.

1. Choose the right forum.

When sending a communication to a colleague, leader, or team member, it’s important to choose the right forum or medium for your message. There are so many communication mediums to choose from. It’s often hard to decide whether a communication is best delivered in-person, via e-mail, over the phone, or via instant message.

In-person delivery is best for sharing news, gathering feedback, discussing urgent matters, or presenting longer-form communications. E-mail and instant message are best for delivering ongoing routine updates, giving status updates, communications that need to be referenced or reviewed in the future (paper trail), or asking questions that can tolerate a longer response time of 24-48 hours.

Many leaders often opt for digital communications when an in-person communication would be much more beneficial. At work, we all receive so many communications via e-mail that a quick in-person conversation is often much more impactful. In person, you have the other person’s full focus and you can more easily gauge emotion and respond to body language.

The use of communication forums are different for everyone and every team. The most important action is to get intentional about how you use your different forums for communication.

2. Connect to your intention.

Without intention, communications can often be unnecessarily lengthy and even void of purpose. Before sending or voicing something, make sure to reconnect to your intention behind your communication. What is your purpose? What is your desired outcome or call to action?

If you are hosting a meeting or sending an e-mail, state your intention in the opening line of the presentation or e-mail. This way, others on the receiving end can really understand why you are sending your message and what the ultimate goal is behind the communication. You are more likely to see results from your communication if you connect to and state your intention clearly.

This connection in person is especially important for delivering news,. When telling a team his or her role is changing or when giving constructive feedback, make sure to state your intention. Share why the role is changing and how that will impact the organization in a positive way. State why you are sharing the feedback – your desire to help the team and the individual improve and reach greater potential.

3. Communicate with clarity.

An obvious but overlooked aspect of communication is clarity! In a fast-paced, busy work environment, communications are written quickly and this often results in miscommunication and frustration.

Writing and preparing a clear communication doesn’t have to take forever, but there are some quick checks every leader should perform before sending or presenting information. These checks include 1) a review of factual and accurate information, 2) a check for concise delivery, 3) an edit check for typos, and 4) a check for the call to action.

If you are presenting in a meeting or sending complex communications, a visual aid can often make communications clearer than a long vocal communication or paragraph of text. A visual technique like mind mapping (which can be found in my book, Awake Leadership), can make communications both concise and clear. It gives recipients a way to easily digest the information and commit information to memory. It’s also fun, engaging, and interactive.

The clearer your communications are, the more easily recipients will read, respond, and act in alignment with your intention and desired result. You will also save others’ time and therefore earn greater respect. Clarity checks are especially important for written communications and prepared presentations. Take a few minutes before sending or presenting any communication to check for clarity and think about ways to more clearly convey your information.

4. Be human.

Whether in-person or in writing, it’s important to develop your authentic style and tone when communicating.

In-person communications are invaluable because they give us the opportunity to use body language, expression, and emotion when communicating. When giving acknowledgement, news, or discussing feedback, these in-person aspects add to the content in a big way. Body language like making eye contact, smiling, and using your hands when speaking adds a new dimension of engagement and information. Have you ever better understood someone’s point or view from his or her body language or emotion? Human personality and emotion gives our communications more color and keeps people engaged!

On the other hand, leaders must be aware of how emotions can impact communications in a distracting way, too. If delivered with too much intensity or negativity, communications can actually have a reverse impact on action and focus for the recipients. Practice control of energy or control of emotions when delivering in-person communications. Ask for feedback from others and gauge reactions when delivering your content to find moderation in your emotion and improve your style.

When communicating digitally, it’s helpful to remove emotion from the message to avoid confusion or misinterpretation. While some specific people might understand your jokes or casual language, many people are confused by content that is beside the point or could be interpreted incorrectly without body language or expression. When communicating digitally, the best use of human emotion is by using a greeting (“Happy Monday, team!” Or “I hope all is well.”), a quick personal update, or providing positive acknowledgement. If emojis are welcome at your workplace, emojis that are widely used in your company culture and understood can be a great way to reflect emotion digitally.

5. Use a positive tone.

In addition to personality and emotion, your tone when speaking or writing can improve the results of your communications as well. When communications are delivered with a positive tone and language, people will more likely want to listen. People will also be more likely to want to respond and take action.

Some techniques that can make your communications more positive include using positive language, giving positive acknowledgement, and expressing gratitude. Bringing awareness to the words you use and thinking about these words will resonate with the recipients is essential. Beginning a communication with a positive acknowledgement or genuine statement of gratitude can put people at ease and win attention. Is the overall tone of your communications positive?

Not every communication given by a leader is positive. Leaders often have to give constructive feedback, challenging news, and timely direction. Even when delivering communications that are constructive or seem urgent, think about how your recipient will feel when receiving your communication. It’s beneficial for both sides if the communication is intentional, calm, and presented in a way that is digestible, agreeable, and actionable.

Written by Hilary Jane Grosskopf. Have you read?

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Hilary Jane Grosskopf
Hilary Jane Grosskopf is the author of Awake Leadership: A System for Leading with Clarity and Creativity and Awake Ethics: A System for Aligning Your Action with Your Core Intentions. She is a leadership strategist and founder of Awake Leadership Solutions. Her new book, “Awake Apprenticeship” is due out later this year. Hilary Jane Grosskopf is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.