Whether running a small startup or an entire nation, great leaders must leverage effective communication skills. Consider some of the leaders who reshaped history—Churchill, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and even Napoleon. All of them were masters of relatable language.
Good communication skills are also crucial for leaders in the corporate world for inspiring both stakeholders outside the company and uniting the internal team into one cohesive group. Strong relationships can boost company resilience and success while increasing talent retention rates.
Effective Communication: Two-Way Vs. One-Way
Influential leaders practice two-way communication, motivating and building solid relationships with team members.
As a leader, it is crucial to understand the importance of both one-way and two-way communication. Sometimes, you will have to communicate to your team decisions that have already been made and directives that must be followed. Regardless of the situation, allowing your team members to voice their disagreements about decisions is key—because understanding their concerns is important. However, framing your communication clearly and addressing any concerns before they are presented can lead to faster acceptance.
Here are six characteristics of effective communication in leadership.
Good leaders are active listeners. They don’t just listen to the comments and feedback from their team; they process, retain, discuss and, if possible, incorporate it into the decision-making process. When team members feel like they are heard, it builds morale.
Leaders should also encourage and facilitate this trait within the team to build better relationships among team members. Open-door policies, communication with individual team members, positive reactions to feedback and constructive debates can help you lead by example.
Team building activities like having discussions on common issues using a chess clock (where each member gets the same time to talk) can drive home the importance of listening.
Individual Communication Styles
It would be best if you introduced multiple modes of communication to accommodate your team members. Some people prefer face-to-face interactions, while others might find it more comfortable chatting on Slack. Not everyone will be comfortable presenting to the whole team, but they might communicate their ideas well with an infographic or a shared presentation where people can comment in real time.
As a leader, you must understand that each team member’s perspective of effective communication differs and might need the right channel to express themselves adequately.
Introducing and encouraging multiple communication channels can inspire the team to share ideas and exchange information more frequently.
Conciseness And Clarity
Don’t let your communication drown in a sea of words. More information can just as easily confuse the listener as insufficient information. This is valid for all forms of communication. That’s why TEDx Talks are designed to be 18 minutes long at most—to keep the audience’s attention.
Short emails, memos and concise instructions can communicate your point better than large blocks of text. Clarity and conciseness can help team members absorb the necessary information and remain on the same page. This creates cohesion and motivates the team to pursue goals together.
For example, if a CFO writes a memo to the entire team with finance-specific lingo, it likely won’t be as effective in conveying its point to designers, IT, or anyone else on the team not familiar with the finance language. Leadership communication should be clear to all team members. Amazon’s six-page memos that serve as a replacement for traditional PowerPoint presentations were introduced to achieve more clarification in communication.
The key to building strong relationships and inspiring teams through communication is to humanize the information you wish to convey and make it more relatable. This is a common practice in education, where complex ideas are broken down and communicated through simple, relatable examples.
You don’t have to break down everything in layperson’s terms, and you can make your communication relatable by using references from your industry that all team members would understand. They will appreciate your effort and desire to help them understand what is being communicated.
Transparency is a crucial characteristic of leadership communication, especially if your goal is to establish trust with your team members. If your employees don’t know the organization’s purpose or do not understand its values, you will have a hard time inspiring them.
Buffer is a good example of a company employing transparent communication; the leadership team publicly shares information like salaries, time off and specific financial metrics.
An organization’s leaders being transparent with its employees about their intentions, company goals, financials and other aspects can foster trust and lead to better relationships and team unity.
Finally, leaders must be consistent in their communication. If the values, ideas and missions they communicate differ occasionally and among team members, it will lead to distrust against the leader. Inconsistent communication also damages team cohesion.
If some team members receive constant feedback from the leader and other members merely receive any communication when there is an issue, they may feel left out.
Achieving Collaboration Through Clear Communication
In the realm of leadership, effective communication is essential for building healthy relationships, both personal and professional. Leaders who communicate well can inspire team members and achieve shared goals.
This article first appeared on FORBES