A leader, beyond everything else, is expected to rally the team to work towards a shared vision and a common goal. Effective communication is a leader’s most potent tool to rally the team. It is one of the two key leadership skills for gaining the trust and backing of the team. It helps the leader align everyone’s efforts around the organization’s shared objectives.
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What is Effective Leadership Communication?
Leadership communication is the form of communication used by an organisation’s leaders to share the organization’s objectives, values, and mission with their employees.
Through effective communication, the leaders of an organisation inspire employees to believe in a shared vision, the company’s values, and its culture and motivate them to work towards the attainment of the organisation’s goals.
Effective and clear communication helps build mutual trust and persuades employees to contribute their collective might to the organisation. The mutual trust fostered by effective leadership communication creates a culture of open, free, and respectful dialogue, enabling collaboration and teamwork among employees.
Why is Communication Important in Leadership?
The ability to communicate effectively is an essential attribute of good leaders. The factors that make good communication important for leadership include:
- Enhances employee engagement. Effective communication builds trust and enhances employee engagement in the organisation.
According to a McKinsey report, engaged employees are committed to the organisation, stay longer with the organisation, and work harder to help the organisation deliver superior business outcomes. A good leader should follow strategies to enhance employee engagement in their organisation.
- Aligns employees with organisational goals. Effective leadership communication skills help leaders convey the organization’s strategic goals, the rationale for the goals, and why the goals are important. Such clear communication rallies the team members behind their leaders and the organization.
- Fosters trust and transparency. Open communication helps build trust and fosters transparency. It encourages people to communicate freely and share ideas – leading to greater initiative among the employees and increased innovation in the organisation.
- Increased collaboration. When an organisation’s leaders communicate effectively, it leads to better communication across the various levels of the organisation. Improved communication encourages teamwork and collaboration.
- Enhances quality of leadership. When leaders start paying attention to communication, it inspires the managers to work on their communication skills – improving their ability to communicate ideas and mentor their teammates. This leads to an overall improvement in the organisation’s leadership communication quality.
Common Barriers in Leadership Communication
Irrespective of the mode of communication, verbal or written or visual or through body language, etc., leaders must overcome barriers to effective communication. The barriers include:
- Resistance to change. Humans inherently resist change out of fear or apprehension of the unknown. Communicating the change’s ‘why’ and ‘how’ will ease the anxiety and help eliminate the resistance.
- Uncertainty or lack of clarity. Communication needs to be clear and consistent. When the messages across channels and by different leaders are inconsistent, it causes uncertainty and a reduction in the level of trust in the employees.
- Conflict in the organisation. When there is conflict in the organisation, it impedes communication. If the conflict is not resolved, it grows, people begin to take sides, and communication is lost.
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- Varied communication styles. The choice of the style used for communication can also impact communication. Some people are direct, some have a roundabout style, some use a lot of data, etc. For effective leadership communication, choose a communication style that is best suited for the message, your personality, and the audience.
- Disruption. Effective communication is only possible when there is engagement between the parties involved. When engagement is disrupted, communication is ineffective.
- Lack of communication channels. Several communication channels may be used. Communication can be rendered ineffective either from a lack of communication channels in the organization or by choosing the wrong channel.
- Dishonesty or lack of transparency. If the employees do not have trust and feel that the leaders are holding something back, whatever message is sought to be communicated will not be conveyed effectively.
- Lack of listening. Listening is an important part of effective communication. Listening to people with whom the leaders wish to engage and communicate is important. Failure to do so results in wrong assumptions of their needs and a wide gap between your perception and reality.
Critical Tips For Effective Leadership Communication
Organizations can follow certain tried and tested practices to improve the effectiveness of their communication. The best practices to enhance communication effectiveness include:
- Communicate relentlessly. Sporadic and infrequent communication conveys a lack of purpose and commitment and leads to confusion. For excellent communication, it is important to continuously and consistently to drive home the message and maintain a sense of purpose toward the organization’s goal among the employees.
- Simplify and Be direct. Simplify the message and be direct with what needs to be conveyed. For communication to be effective, it needs to be relatable and devoid of unnecessary details. Complexity leads to confusion and a lack of clarity – defeating the very purpose of communication.
- Listen and Encourage Input. An essential aspect of great communication is active listening. According to an SHRM report, listening signals respect for the employees and is also an opportunity for great leaders to hear their employees and understand their points of view. This enables the leaders to tailor their responses to be most meaningful to their audience.
- Illustrate through stories. Stories and analogies are great tools for communication. A skilled communicator uses stories to simplify the message, make the message relatable, and get everyone on the same page quickly.
- Affirm with actions. It is important to ensure no contradiction between the message being communicated and the action on the ground. An effective leader reiterates the message with visible action and follows through with the commitment made. Inconsistency between the action and the message will lead to a breakdown of trust and disrupt communication.
- Value transparency. Honesty and transparency are critical in leadership communication. Communicate goals and expectations clearly and openly. Transparency builds trust and engagement, leading to greater productivity, superior business results, and improved bottom line.
- Have confidence. All communication from the leaders should convey confidence. Even when times are tough, communication should remain positive and confident. Tentativeness or doubt in the message percolates and makes for poor communication since it brings down everybody’s confidence and morale.
- Develop strong coaching skills. Coaching employees and helping everyone raise their performance is an essential part of leadership and important to foster a learning attitude as a part of company culture. The employees must feel comfortable coming up to the leadership to help resolve their personal and professional issues.
- Utilise the storytelling approach. It is important to know your audience and be aware of what appeals to them. Instead of communicating through instructions, communicate effectively by conveying the message through stories. Stories convey the message without seeming that you are imposing your will on the employees.
- Understand the importance of training. Informed leaders and their teams know that training is essential to the continued growth and success of the organization. Continuous learning and training enable employees to grow their skills and become more productive at work.
- Challenge your employees. People grow and exceed expectations when they are challenged to test their limits. Good leaders push their organisations’ human resources with challenging assignments that force them out of their familiar territory and compel them to think.
Effective communication is an integral part of good leadership and a key element in the set of leadership skills. For leaders to influence and motivate their teams, they will need to communicate the organisation’s expectations and goals effectively.
Leaders must constantly work to improve their communication skills to convey their ideas to employees and motivate them to give their best to the organization. In doing this, organisations can use tech tools, such as employee engagement software, to improve employee communication and engagement.