Communication skills form connections integral to establishing your leadership brand. Effective communication and strong connections allow you to build successful relationships. Timely and consistent communication with clients, family, colleagues, friends, and vendors fosters effective leadership.
Effective Communication—Be purposeful in your form of communication. What you say, how you deliver it, what you do not say, and when you say it establishes the foundation for effective communication. If you need to have a difficult conversation, meet face-to-face or by video conference, rather than sending an email or text. Use e-mails and texts primarily as follow-up to established relationships and priorities.
Strong Connections—Good people connect with good people. Add value to others by sharing your network. Take the time to introduce personal friends and professional associates who may benefit from such connections. You will be amazed how much your colleagues and family will appreciate you for expanding their resources.
How to Start the Connection: Through Conversation
Developing a connection involves learning about a person: who they are, what they do, their strengths, and their passions. Before you meet an individual for the first time, research the person online, through LinkedIn and other professional sites. Identify if you have any connections, such as people you both know, academic links, and professional associations. Learn about what people do for their current organization and what they have accomplished throughout their personal life and career. Prior to meeting an individual, prepare 2-3 open-ended questions to get the conversation going, be genuine and curious to learn more about the person.
What You Say: Verbal Communication
Communication is conveyed as much by tone and method of delivery as by the actual words. Speak in a steady, clear voice. Identify when a verbal interaction is necessary rather than a written message. When communicating verbally, be mindful of your tone of voice and choose your words carefully. To minimize distraction from your message, avoid filler words, such as um, like, and you know. Use care not to hide behind technology and choose to include face-to-face interactions or video conferencing if you are not in the same location.
How You Deliver It: Written and Electronic Communication
Business writing is more formal than other forms of communication.
Include a greeting and signature, and spell out full words—no acronyms,
shorthand, or abbreviations—even in an email. Take time to proof read your
writing for grammatical errors and typos using methods such as the Read Aloud
feature in Microsoft Word or print the document and read the hard copy. Obtain
another reader’s perspective by asking a trusted individual to review a draft
before sending. In turn, be open to reviewing your colleagues’ drafts.
Electronic communication includes emails, instant messages, texts, and all forms of social media. People tend to read quickly and take in information from their own perspective and through their own lens. This can cause a reaction rather than a thoughtful response. Clarity is therefore crucial. Be a role model. Pause and think before you click Send or Post. Remember, an electronic message is instant, and you cannot get it back.
What You Do Not Say: Non-Verbal Communication
Your non-verbal cues are as important as the words you say. Whether you are speaking or listening, people are reading your signals, such as facial expressions and gestures. Model positive non-verbal communication. Have an open stance to welcome in what the other person is saying rather than crossing your arms. Lean in with your posture to indicate you are interested in what the person is stating. Maintain eye contact to show your interest in the conversation.
When You Say It: Coachable Moments
Often, we take too long to communicate our feedback and miss opportunities by waiting until an annual review with a supervisee or until the frustration has built with a colleague, friend, or family member. A “Coachable Moment” avoids this by taking advantage of a moment in time to give an individual immediate and specific feedback. Enhance your communication style by asking for, receiving, and providing coachable moments.
How the Organization Does It: Team 3600 Communication
Whether you are working on a project, process, fundraiser, or change management, successful teams implement 3600 communication. To better communicate with all parties involved, ask questions, listen, and confirm that what you have said or heard has been received. Team 3600 communication uses transparency to avoid assumptions or fear of the unknown. Discuss and document a process for communicating that makes clear how, when, how often, and whom to include. A timely response goes a long way in creating trust. At a minimum, acknowledge you have received a message and when the person can expect a full response. To facilitate an effective team meeting, hand out an agenda in advance, adhere to the scheduled time, discuss roles and responsibilities, determine next steps, set timelines and deadlines, create meeting notes, and distribute timely to team members.
How We Stay Connected: Telecommuters and Remote Staff
It is now common for organizations to support part-time and full-time telecommuters. Creating a communication structure is critical for staff to work effectively and requires additional effort in a virtual environment. To form and maintain connections, designate a process for reaching remote staff quickly, such as an instant messaging system. Allocate funds to bring staff into the corporate office for in-person onboarding, training, and annual retreats, and require webcams for low-cost, face-to-face discussions using video conferencing.
Successful leaders take the time to communicate and connect. Invest in your family, friends, and colleagues today. After reading and reflecting on the tips & techniques, what are you going to move to action? Join the conversation below.
Communication gets you going and connection keeps everyone growing.
Emily Tevault, MBA, Vice President, Programs & Producktivity®
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