It is difficult to lead effectively without communicating with efficacy. Particularly if we believe that 55% of our communications comes from our body language, 38% contained in our tone of voice or how we say what we say and the other 7% comes from actual words.
I have come to realize that communicating with others, at any level is one if of the most if not the most difficult aspect of effective leadership; so then, perhaps some of the outcomes that we experience in our interactions are due to how the intended audience receives and translates our messages; or is it how we deliver it?
I was recently retained to lead a community leadership program. My task was to kick it off and conduct a leadership workshop that was required to last a few hours. The theme was to know oneself and seek self-improvement, so we obviously introduced a portion on self-awareness into the program. Throughout the preparation process we kept changing how we were to fill 3 to 4 hours of content and keep the clients engaged; finally we settled on a concept speech, individual assessments, team building activities and motivational leadership videos with compelling messages at the societal level; after all it was a business community event.
I was careful through my preparation process and rehearsed all the areas of our program to ensure we achieve our goal of providing a memorable experience. That goal was achieved, but not without controversy.
Developing an understanding of communication skills is not difficult; applying those skills appropriately is a different story all together.
The best leaders understand that the he message is not about the messenger; it has nothing to do with messenger; it is however about meeting the needs and the expectations of those you’re communicating with. So then, how do you know which principles to draw from to allow your skills to mature? The answer is found when consistently using the following five principles:
- Speak from the heart: People will not open their minds to you unless an element of trust exists. Trust is not something that comes easy, and usually takes time to achieve, so when challenged to speed up that particular process you must not only be genuine, but authentic above all; even at the risk of experiencing polarized points of views.
- Leadership is Personal: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Developing a relationship requires exposing vulnerabilities, taking an emotional risk creates the personal connection that humanizes all of us and takes us from a position of being liked to being trusted. Emotionalizing the process can be dangerous if done improperly, however, invoking feelings can be a powerful technique to ensure your message is received and understood. This has to be a genuine attempt to connect emotionally and not a ruse to close a deal. An image has to be created in the mind’s eye in order to have a causal effect. Remember that most people hear words, but think in pictures
- Keep it Simple: Communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. People need to feel as if you were speaking directly to them as an individual. Knowing how to do this will establish credibility and trust.
- Remember the Leave Behinds: When you truly focus more on contributing more than receiving you will have accomplished the goal. Whether speaking publicly of with individuals, the listener must walk away remembering something about the exchange, something that connects him/her through either a want or a need that must be realized. Sharing a story of an actual event can be very compelling and when done correctly it will serve as the take away required. In some cases it may be a powerful leave behind.
- Know your Subject: The fake it until you make it days are gone. Most people can spot a fake quickly. Good Leaders address the “what” and “how” aspects of messaging, they also incorporate a call to action that compels the listener to either change or begin a new behavior.
In an attempt to be authentic and connect with the audience during the community leadership program I took the risk of using a video from the past, the video featured President Ronald Reagan during one of his famous speeches where he addressed the Nation and inspired us with his positive view of being an American citizen and a Global Leader; I also addressed the importance and responsibility leaders possess to understand the influences of faith and belief systems. The outcome was interesting at best; our numerical score was very generous, actually almost maxed out. In the verbiage, however, some expressed discomfort of being exposed to politics and religion and felt it inappropriate as part of a professional discussion.
I’ve had time to think about the dissented opinions of that day and firmly respect it. What is difficult for me to understand is the fear that position expresses. Leaders are necessary to lead people with different points of views all of the time; so having the intellectual integrity to address these topics openly, and honestly, even if controversial is important for relationship building, personal and organizational growth.
What do you think?