Monday, February 13, 2012

Good Leaders are Good Communicators

It is a common question ... “How can I be successful as a leader?”  While there are, as John Maxwell says, many leadership laws that one must understand and do well to be an effective leader, I believe there is one that binds all the others together - Clear Communication.

Think about it … how do the best leaders motivate and inspire their people?  Through clear communication.  How do the best organizations promote their purpose, values, and vision?  With clear communication.  In real estate, the old cliché is “location, location, location.”  In leadership, you preach “communication, communication, communication.”

Good Leaders are Good Communicators
Regardless of whether you lead in a business, charitable organizations church, sports, or the military, the best leaders are great communicators.  So how do you communicate effectively?

First, understand that communication is always a two-way process.  Communication is not just about the leader doing all of the talking.  Good leaders are good listeners.  Good leaders understand that they have followers who want to be heard and understood.  How can you become a good listener?  Let me summarize it in one statement:  Walk slowly through the crowd.

Walking slowly through the crowd means taking the time to talk with those you lead.  Hear their stories, hurts, ideas, and thoughts.  Keep an open mind when they share their ideas.  Let them know how much you appreciate their ideas and thoughts.  Implement any idea you can.  This affirms that you value them.

Clear communication involves good listening but it also includes clearly sharing your message.  You message may consist of your vision, your goals, or your values.  Folllowing are some ideas on how to clearly and effectively share your message.

• Spend time thinking through and understanding the message yourself.  Your message must be clear to you.  If it is not clear in your mind, it will not be clear in the minds of others.

• Clarify the goal of the communication.  What do you want it to achieve?  What do you want the listener(s) to do once they’ve heard the message?

• Prepare how you’ll communicate your message.  Think through the best delivery medium.  Will you present the message personally?  Will you use power-point?  Will you use print media or audio/video media?  The purpose, size of group, available technology, etc, will determine how you deliver your message.

• Anticipate the receiver’s viewpoint and feelings and address these in the message.

• Deliver the message with passion and conviction.

• Relate the message to your purpose.

• Identify the action to be taken.  Make clear to the listener what you are expecting them to do once they have heard the message.

• Confirm the other person(s) understanding.

Why is clear communication so important?  Consider Thomas Jefferson and the other framers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. They drafted documents that not only defined America and its mission, but also laid the foundation of ideals, principles, values and laws on which the nation operates to this day.  And, guess what?  They didn’t just sit down one day and dictate it to a secretary.  They worked the language and polished every word, over and over, and they used the process itself to promote alignment, consensus and collective buy-in.  With words, language and clear communication, they launched a revolution.  What’s more, on the shared values of liberty, individual empowerment and collective prosperity, these visionaries built a nation of unparalleled wealth and economic gain.

The bottom line is simple: clear communication is critical to a leader’s success.  So to succeed as a leader, you must learn how to be an effective, compelling, and clear communicator