A key to great leadership is the display of great communication skills. Obviously great communication is important in many facets of a manager’s job. This includes networking, interviewing and reference checking skills. For example, the first challenge for a new employee is to understand and agree to their job responsibilities.
Great communication is two-way. Two-way communication means that a manager has to elicit and listen to feedback. It does not consist of dictating to another party. There must be give and take. In order to get that feedback, you must be prepared to listen. The keys to listening, include:
- Moving to an environment where you can listen (a neutral place or at least behind closed doors and with the phone turned off). You must actively resist distractions during this process.
- Take notes, which will force you to pay attention and shows that you are interested.
- Start by making the other person comfortable with the fact that you will listen. Encourage them to talk using statements such as “I really need your help,” or “I really value your feedback.”
- Don’t be closed in your response. Use body language such as nodding your head in understanding and respond with questions that are empathetic to their information. For example, “What might you do to change this system”?
- Above all, thank them for their feedback. A little thanks will go a long way in showing them you appreciate and value their opinions.
“A lot can be learned from the management style of Lee Iacocca. He believed that successful leaders can listen and profit from dissent, from people telling them they’re wrong. When Lee Iacocca headed to Chrysler, he realized those below him in rank hesitated to do just that. He also knew that this placed him in a dangerous position. So, at every key staff meeting, he would name a devil’s advocate, or what Iacocca called a contrarian. It was this person’s job to take the opposing view on whatever was being discussed. He was successful in making sure the group wasn’t always steered in one direction, the Iacocca direction.” ..From Reinventing Leadership, by Warren Bennis and Robert Townsend.
Great communication is consistent. Distributing a memo or newsletter one time per year or having one sales meeting each year might actually highlight how poor communication is the remainder of the time.
Communicate when good things happen, plus when corrections need to be made or there is important news. For example, consistent success stories will provide positive motivation. These should be interspersed with updates, policy changes, etc.
Great communication is diverse. It is in writing and verbal. It is before groups and one-on-one. Having large meetings by themselves will not fulfill the need for individual meetings and fulfill individual needs. Putting information in writing will not fulfill the need for custom feedback to an individual either. In other words, communication should be delivered in a variety of ways and leaders must be the example, in this regard. Though we are using the development of job responsibilities as an example, the ability to be a great communicator will go a long way to determine whether you are a manager vs a great leader. Whether you are recruiting, coaching, producing or developing a team – these communication skills will make a big difference in furthering your career.