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Friday, July 29, 2011

Positive Leadership: Five Essentials of Leadership Communication

Beware of the "say/do" gap. This is all about credibility, which boils down to trust — one of the most potent, precious and fragile elements of leadership. If your actions don't align with your words, there's trouble. And it can turn into big trouble if you don't recognise and correct it swiftly and genuinely. It is often difficult to see the say/do gap in yourself, so rely on a few trusted colleagues to tell it to you straight and flag discrepancies. Of course, you have to be prepared to hear the feedback and address issues — which isn't always easy. Rule of thumb: it's better to say nothing or delay your communication until you're certain that your actions will ring true.

Take the complex and make it simple. Being complex does not make you smart. There is power in clarity and simplicity. People are already suffering from information overload, and your job is to distil complex thoughts and strategies into simple terms that your employees can relate to. The more memorable, the better. If you're having trouble distilling something to its essence, it's a sign that you may not have a clear understanding of it. That makes it impossible for you to communicate it to others effectively. Leaders find it easy to get mired in technical jargon and business-speak. Beware of this trap. Just say what you mean.

Don't fake it. Find your own voice. Use language that's distinctly your own. Let your values come through in your communication. Forget about eloquence — worry about being real. People want real. People respect real. People follow real. Don't disguise who you are. People will never willingly follow a fake.

Be visible. Are you visible to the people who matter most — those who will help you achieve organisational goals? Visibility is about letting your key stakeholders get a feel for who you are and what you care about. Today, it's easy to hide behind a computer and transmit messages to others without seeing or interacting with them. Although e-communication serves a valuable purpose, it is no substitute for face-to-face communication. Show your people that you care about them and their work.

Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Stop, look and listen. Remember that effective communication is two-way. Good leaders know how to ask good questions, and then listen with both their eyes and ears. It's easy to be so focused on getting your message out — or persuading others — that you don't tune in to what you see and hear. Because you're in a position of authority, you won't always get direct feedback. You need to read between the lines. Listen and hear what is coming back at you. Look for the nonverbal cues. Sometimes a person's body language will tell you everything you need to know.