Techniques for Leaders
By Teena Rose
Sometimes even the most successful executive
needs a reminder or two on the basics of communication.
Why? Just like everyone else, executives get
busy with meeting deadlines and getting information
out quickly. This can sometimes lead to communication
that is misinterpreted, misleading, or simply
gives a negative impression when that is not
the intention. As such, a few quick reminders
can help you communicate effectively at work,
at home, and at play.
One of the most basic tools of good communication
is learning how to listen effectively. Yes,
you've heard it before and there's a reason.
Listening demonstrates caring, particularly
when you are able to provide a brief summary
of what the other party is saying. As a busy
executive, this may seem contrary to what you
need to accomplish - giving directives or disseminating
information. However, if you are able to take
the time on a regular basis to listen to your
staff, you may find that your ultimate goals
are much easier to accomplish.
When people feel they are being heard, they
are much more receptive to directives. When
they don't feel heard, they are more likely
to focus on getting their point across than
hearing what you have to say. Therefore, when
you show that you are listening and understand
what your team is telling you, they will in
turn listen to you when it's your turn, and
when the communication is vitally important
to the company.
Listening and validating the opinions of others
also builds trust, which, for the executive,
is a desirable trait in a leader. If your employees
trust you, they're more likely to go along with
changes and requests. When trust is absent,
your employees will be wary of anything you
have to say, which will work against your objectives.
Validating your team is very easy to do. All
you have to do is communicate that you've heard
and understand their opinions. This does not
mean that you have to agree, simply that you
acknowledge the communication.
During the interaction, take a moment to repeat
what you've heard in your own words to ensure
that you heard and understand correctly - that's
all it takes! The other party will either confirm
or clarify. This simple act of validating the
communication is extremely powerful in developing
meaningful relationships, whether in business,
at home, or in any other situation.
Another key issue to effective communication
is to be aware of your body language. Most of
our communication is nonverbal, so your facial
expressions, posture, tone of voice, and volume
of speaking contribute to how your message is
conveyed. Think for example of telling someone
that he or she did a great job on a project
while yelling and slamming your fists on the
desk. Chances are the words won't mean much.
The message that comes across is one of anger
or agitation. So even if you have the perfect
words, how you say them is just as important,
if not more so than what you say.
To make the most of your nonverbal communication,
remember to maintain eye contact, particularly
when listening, as this shows that you are paying
attention. Keep your body language open by not
crossing your arms or showing tension through
closed fists or a clenched jaw. Keep your tone
in check, and take some deep breaths if needed,
particularly if you're communicating difficult
information, such as when taking disciplinary
Even though you're the boss, think of communicating
your message using "I" messages. Again,
this is a technique you've likely heard before,
but it bears repeating. When you use "you"
statements, the other party is likely to feel
defensive, even during a casual conversation.
State your observations and thoughts rather
than making statements that run the risk of
sounding judgmental. Yes, you're the executive,
but one quick way to alienate others is to use
statements that sound accusatory or that you
know how someone else thinks or feels.
Finally, since so much communication these
days is written, consider revising your email
and memo communications. Even though email is
a casual form of communicating, your purposes
are still professional, and your messages should
show this. As an executive, you're likely using
support personnel to assist you in your writings.
If needed, offer educational opportunities in
business writing and communication techniques.
Throughout your executive career, you have
been and will be in numerous situations where
effective communication is essential. Take a
few moments to refresh your skills and practice.
It will be worth the effort.
Need a kick-butt resume
and cover letter? Teena Rose is
a credentialed resume writer, columnist, book
author, and careerist. She's authored several
books, including "20-Minute
Cover Letter Fixer" and "Cracking
the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales."