“Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
In the words of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, “the single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” We’ve all been there… You’re absolutely, positively, 100% sure you’ve already been over it… they should know by now, obviously they just weren’t listening! Whether it’s your team, your kids or your partner, it’s beyond frustrating when they Just. Don’t. Get. It. Am I right?
Ummm… no. The truth is, if they’re not getting it, it’s on you.
It’s not their responsibility to get what you’re saying, it’s your responsibility to make sure they understand it. This is one of the biggest a-ha moments I witness amongst leaders. It’s the foundation of effective communication, and it’s probably the most important skill any leader can possess.
One major study found that companies with leaders who communicate effectively delivered 47% higher returns to their shareholders, compared with firms whose leaders are less effective communicators.
Why? Because when you learn to communicate effectively, you can create an emotional connection that inspires people to do their best. You can influence decisions and outcomes. You can motivate people towards a shared purpose. You can avoid misunderstandings and navigate difficult conversations. You can create a productive, healthy, respectful culture that breeds success.
I spend close to 70% of my time in the coaching room helping people elevate their leadership capabilities, and so often it comes down to learning how to communicate more effectively. We unpick conversations, brainstorm new ways to express thoughts and discuss how to thoughtfully manage emotions and beliefs. Tools to supercharge communication skills for any setting and situation.
I thought I’d share a few of my favourite strategies with you here – so if you’re ready to take your leadership to the next level, read on!
1. Reframe your emotions
Holocaust survivorViktor E. Frankl famously wrote, “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Your emotions have real power. Taking the time to process your feelings before you respond to a situation, learning to control your emotions and use them wisely, is a hugely valuable skill to have.
There’s a really useful tool I use to help people understand the power of consciously responding rather than immediately reacting (you can listen to me explain how it works here). Taking the time to pause and reflect on your emotions and thoughts before responding really can change the course of any conversation.
That’s why it’s so important to develop emotional agility – the discipline to acknowledge your emotions and feelings, explore them and use them to help you make decisions. The ability to approach your emotions and thoughts in a mindful way – not being controlled by them, but embracing them as a tool to help you navigate challenges and lead in a way that aligns with your values and beliefs.
And when you think, feel and act from your values, from what matters to you most, you connect with yourself and others better. You become a better communicator and a better leader.
So how do you develop emotional agility?
First, understand that the communication you have with yourself (your internal chatter) is framed by your beliefs – of yourself, of others, of the world you live in, of the workplace in which you operate.
Emma Murray, renowned high performance coach, reminds us that while we speak an average of 16,000 words aloud each day, “we have between 50,000 and 90,000 thoughts every day and mostly they revolve around the same 7-9 unhelpful themes”. It’s those negative thoughts that stop us from performing at our best and fulfilling our potential.
We need to learn to question the stories we tell ourselves and recognise the thoughts that are holding us back.
Let’s practice. A promotion comes up at work. You don’t believe you’re good enough to go for it, yet career progression is something you really value.
Now remember, beliefs aren’t based on fact – they’re assumptions that are influenced by things like the way you were raised, your knowledge, the events in your life. Recognise that many beliefs are limiting and ask yourself whether this is one of those. Assess the situation realistically, then consider whether to honour your value of career progression by going for that promotion.
Infuse your decisions and actions with your values and always consider – is your response going to help you be the leader you want to be?
2. Know which hat you’re wearing
While I do love a good hat, this is a metaphor for knowing who you need to be in any given situation. Which ‘hat’ you need to have on to capably do your job, and having the awareness to know when to switch them around.
You know how it goes, you start the day at home in ‘Parent’ mode, hit the office and switch to ‘Motivator’ for a team meeting, pop your ‘Marketing’ hat on to write some content, switch to ‘Strategist’ over a planning lunch, morph into a ‘Counsellor’ for a 1:1 session. You have a great big hat collection, whether you’re aware of it or not.
The trick is understanding which hat you need to be wearing at which times, and using the language, attitude and manner appropriate for that hat. While your ‘Motivator’ hat might work at home, using your ‘Parent’ voice might not go down so well in the boardroom!
Knowing which mode you need to be in takes empathy, presence and adaptability. Ask yourself ‘Who do I need to be right now?’ – and if you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask the other person what they need from you so it’s very clear.
If you want to level up your communication skills, you need to hone your ability to notice what’s needed in the moment, and be flexible enough to adapt quickly.
And if you feel like you’re spending more time switching hats than wearing them? It might be time to have a conversation about where the focus lies in your role!
3. Mind the perception gap!
As Aristotle once said, “The success of any team depends upon the quality of its communication.” You can ‘communicate’ all you want, but if people aren’t getting the right message, then you’re not going to get the right outcome!
The thing is, when you communicate with someone, it’s not just about the words you use (though obviously they’re super important). It’s also about the clarity of what you’re saying, how you stand, your tone of voice, your body language and how the person you’re communicating with processes and retains information.
With so many variables at play, the intention of your message and the impact of your message can sometimes be stratospheres apart. Minimising that disconnect, or the ‘perception gap’, is where good communicators shine.
Here are some tools you can use to tackle the perception gap:
- Make your intention crystal clear: Know what your intention is going in, and don’t be afraid to state it with a simple “My intention for this meeting is x”.
- Check in: Ask for feedback – “My intention for this meeting was x. How did I go?” Not only does this reiterate your intention, it also creates a friendly space for clarification.
- Listen carefully: Focus on what people are saying and what they’re not saying. Ask them how they would explain your message in their own words, and how it might impact their actions.
- Take the time: Don’t assume that your message has been received just because it’s been delivered. Spend time discussing it so you’re comfortable everyone’s on the same page.
Another way to ensure your intention and impact are closely aligned is to use the 3 C’s when you’re delivering your message:
- Clarity: As author Luigina Sgarro said, “There is no communication that is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood.” Think about your audience and use language they’ll relate to. Make it as simple and easy to digest as possible, stick to the point and eliminate the fluff!
- Consistency: Studies prove that repetition is your friend – it boosts the clarity of your message and its retention. So repeat your message often, and through multiple mediums, both verbally and in writing.
- Creativity: Use memorable, relevant ways to deliver your message. Act it out, use quotes, draw pictures, tell a story, create a fun analogy, use facts and figures. Be a storyteller, not a newsreader!
Nelson Mandela once said, “if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Learning how to communicate in a way that genuinely resonates is the key to becoming a more persuasive and compelling communicator. To creating authentic and fulfilling relationships. To becoming a more impactful and influential leader. Supercharge it with these strategies, and you’ll find that communication becomes more than just a skill – it becomes a superpower.
Looking for more ways to take your leadership to the next level? Check out my new online Recalibrate Self-Paced Coaching Program. Not only will you learn how to supercharge your communication skills, you’ll also learn other life-long skills like value-setting and taking action to achieve your goals, as well as how to smash through limiting beliefs, bad habits and negative thinking. You can download an Info Pack for all the details, or simply get in touch and we’ll organise a time to chat!