This blog is part of a 16-part series focused on what capabilities make a strong leader. Sounding Board has identified 16 leadership capabilities that the strongest leaders possess. These were developed from research-backed leadership theories, leadership competencies used for evaluation from top business schools, and 25+ years of practical coaching application.
Great leaders have effective communication skills. A lack in this critical area could literally mean the difference between success and failure; if a leader cannot create a clear flow of information to clarify tasks, establish requirements, and share feedback, their direct reports cannot operate effectively, and they cannot create a work environment where everyone can speak and be heard.
Good communication is a core leadership function because a leader must inspire positive change and empower those around them to work to achieve common goals. Keeping employees motivated requires that a leader gain trust, and align efforts in the pursuit of set goals. How? By fostering strong lines of communication.
Leaders with poor communication skills can have a negative impact on employees’ motivation, satisfaction, and organizational productivity. Without effective communication, leaders also cannot expect their employees to be fully connected to or engaged in the workplace. Employees rely on them to align and lead their efforts to achieve business success.
The Characteristics of a Skilled Communicator
A leader’s communication skills need to be multifaceted. They need to be a good communicator while presenting, writing, conversing, and facilitating. Here are a few characteristics in a leader who has highly developed communication skills:
Share information, assumptions, and ideas to make reasoning and position clear
Understanding information clearly is foundational to meet the individual needs of partners, employees, customers, influencers, and stakeholders. For instance, it is important that employees and teammates understand the why behind an ask. How will this particular project affect the bottom line? Why are these tasks pivotal to the overall success of the project? When people understand why a leader makes a request, they’re more likely to feel motivated to take the actions necessary to fulfill it.
Listen, stay open, explore, and encourage others to provide different views
Many of us know what it feels like when someone is waiting to respond rather than truly listening to our ideas. Good leaders listen to understand, not to respond. They make sure their employees feel heard by encouraging them to share their own thoughts before sharing what they think should be the solution. Not only will this behavior encourage creative ideas to multiply, but employees will feel heard and respected, and the leader can foster a culture where experimentation and innovative thinking are the norm.
Draw out others perspectives
Highly communicative leaders garner understanding and clarity in their relationships. Good communication will invite curiosity into the conversation, and welcome diverse points of view. Leaders should ask questions that develop others’ thoughts behind their ideas. Listening to understand others’ motivation and perspective when sharing an idea can help all parties arrive at an informed decision or course of action, and avoid complications and misunderstandings. It’s one thing to hear peoples’ ideas and plans, but a truly powerful communicator will understand the reasoning behind them.
Do not promote defensiveness
A strong leader shares and asks questions in ways that do not encourage defensiveness. Effective leadership communication is a two-way street that requires a foundation of trust and safety. A leader must show compassion, empathy, and goodwill towards their team to foster such an atmosphere. They should courageously share their ideas, hopes, and dreams, and encourage the same of their employees in ways that promote open conversation for all.
Initiate and encourage courageous conversations
One of the greatest barriers to healthy workplace communication is the fear of expressing authentic thoughts and feelings. In addition to ideas about the organization and individual employee goals, leaders who communicate well will encourage conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion rather than avoid them. Encouragement for these kinds of conversations must be explicit and normal. Don’t wait for a negative situation to arise, a proactive leader leads by example. They likely should have a strategy or plan in place for these conversations so employees know how to approach and conduct courageous conversations.
Leadership coaching can boost communication skills
If leaders aren’t sure where to begin building their communication skills, they can start by leaning into another critical leadership skill – self-awareness. It means getting real about their current skill levels. Then identify situations where communication worked well, in addition to examples where communication was lacking. What elements of the communication were successful? What were the pain points and gaps?
It pays to ask for feedback from a leadership coach, trusted teammates, and your direct reports. Bringing others into the conversation will illuminate insights that may be difficult for a leader to see on their own.
Ready to improve communication skills in your organization? The team at Sounding Board has you covered. Our network of certified coaches are highly trained in leadership development and can offer personalized solutions to help your business thrive. For more information, reach out to our team. We will help you understand the value of our specialized coaches for your organization, and help you get started today.