Capturing the Power of Communication
It is easy to say effective leaders are masters of communication.
But “communication” is wide and deep, and hella complex.
Yes, it is our words and actions (or inaction) (and the “effectiveness” is, in large part, a result of how congruent those two pieces are). You can also break it down further into conscious/unconscious, intentional/unintentional, and your body language or other nonverbal cues like tone.
I love words and examining word choice, but communication is also about understanding your audience — what their needs and desires are, actively listening, showing empathy and vulnerability, reading the room, tapping into your intuition, etc.
You also have to be clear on your objective with the communication? Are you trying to inspire, motivate, sell, or convince; are you directing or coaching; giving tough feedback; making a challenging request, or resolving conflict.
Here are 3 tips to keep in mind as you navigate this minefield.
Clarity Conquers All
Get out of your own way! Seriously. Many communications issues stem from a lack of clarity around the message, the point you are making or the takeaway for your audience.
Be concise, tell it straight and simple.
Whether you are delivering tough news, critical feedback or communicating a decision (popular or not), get to the point. It’s easy to ramble on, give a litany of reasons why, throw in some apologies, or waffle.
Stick to the 40-word rule. Say what you have to say in 40 words or less. Otherwise, you are going to lose people. They will tune out. Not to mention, nobody has time for that nonsense.
Or, try to put what you have to say on a 3 x 5 index card. Ok, I will give you both sides. That’s it.
This means prepare!!! Know what you are going to say and how you want to say it. Be intentional. That means the first conversation you need to have is with yourself so you are crystal clear.
Harness the Power of Storytelling
63% of people remember stories. 5% remember stats. There is power in numbers, but stories are magic.
Through stories you connect on an emotional level, you seem more relatable, you can break down complex information, highlight problems or respond to objections with examples.
Often times when the goal is to inspire or motivate, you need to connect head and heart. If you are just appealing to intellect and the audience needs to feel it in their hearts, you won’t connect and nothing you say will stick. They won’t be moved to action (whether that is customers, team members, investors writing checks).
Finally think about how you deliver your message beyond words but in terms of structure. Again, be intentional.
For example, a client recently made a decision that she knew was not going to be popular. The natural MO for most is to deliver the decision (right you want them to remember it) and then explain your thinking (without the rambling, see above).
Flip it. Think more in terms story framework: setup, struggle, and solution (here you would throw in some alternatives you considered and why you dismissed them).
Or, if you are trying to convince someone to buy, or do, something. Go with the feel, felt, found structure. “I feel ya, I felt the same [when/what], and I found that [evidence changed your mind]”. Yes, you hear this often in sales training, but it can apply to your teams too — are they frustrated because need more help, or money, or they asked for some system and got turned down because no budget. Have you been in that situation and how did you manage it?
Communication is complex, critical to success and not commonly taught. Yes, we learn all about grammar, add to our vocabulary (hello, spelling bees), practice our delivery, and get schooled on enunciation and presence. All must haves! But great leaders also master the subtleties of connecting, of making it about the audience