Good leaders prioritize communication, both with customers and within their companies. Communication is the key to solving problems, coming up with new ideas, and keeping loyal customers and employees. It’s a skill you can constantly hone, no matter how long you’ve been leading a team.
As experienced business leaders, Forbes Business Council know how to communicate effectively and have continued to build those skills throughout their careers. We asked them to share 15 practical approaches for leaders looking to improve their communication skills.
1. Be Present In Your Interactions
Two practical steps to improve communication is to be present in each interaction and recognition that every person has their own specific communication style. Removing distractions, such as devices, from personal interactions or meetings is critical. Second is the awareness of your own communication style as it relates to others and how each person involved best gives and receives information. – Amy Hall, Caton Commercial Real Estate Group
2. Focus On The Intended Audience
As a leader, I’ve mindfully designed communication for the intended audience. What information do my readers or listeners already have? What terms are they going to understand best? How much time do they have to consume my communication? The best communication is usually layered so that everyone can get the gist from the first few sentences and some can dive in for more details if they need to know more. – Yana Welinder, Kraftful
3. Observe Follow-Up Actions
If they are not doing what you want them to, you are not communicating well. The first place to improve is to realize the problem. Listen for resonance of your communications. Is it understood? Does it lead to action? We each have our own way of communicating. Don’t copy others: Build your own approach. Communication effectiveness is audience-dependent! Be super aware of resonance and action. – Sid Mohasseb, Venture Farm
4. Practice Purpose-Driven Communication
It’s very important to know exactly what you want out of a conversation and to quickly determine what someone else wants. This helps you quickly come up with a solution that can get a win for both sides. I’ve learned that asking a great question can often be 10 times more powerful than speaking. As a leader, your time is limited, and you have to make the most out of every single minute. – Jeff J Hunter, BrandedMedia.io
5. Start With A Focus On Empathy And Inquiry
Many times we think that the other person is experiencing exactly the same things as us. Too often, this leads to a serious communication breakdown. When we start with empathy and inquiry, we can break through the assumptions and understand what the other person is thinking or experiencing. This helps us become clear in our communication. – Abdi Shayesteh, Altaclaro
6. Adapt Your Approach To The Context
Knowing the purpose of the communication is an important way to start. Is the communication a casual email, a broad announcement, or a problem-solving meeting? Any of these have different approaches to accomplishing goals. For some, a big part of the communication is listening, where others, it’s to rally the team together. Adapting your approach will ensure successful outcomes. – Kim DeLine, Elevate K-12
7. Listen More Than You Speak
Active listening is one of the best ways to encourage open and honest communication as a leader. Knowing your audience’s motivation, preferred communication styles and learning styles allows you to adapt your message and increase the odds of effective communication. – Abigail Aboitiz, Advanced Remote Monitoring / ARM LLC
8. Repeat What You Heard For Clarity And Understanding
People often forget that communication is a two-way street. To improve it you have to start first by really listening to what the other party is trying to say. And by listening I don’t mean waiting for your turn to speak. Take a pause after someone shares an idea. Respond by naming what you think you heard. You’ll be shocked by how people respond and engage when they feel heard in the first place. – Christine Tao, Sounding Board Inc.
9. Review Engagement Analytics When Possible
Constantly evaluate how a post or message was received by your audience. Did something you post inspire a bunch of comments? Was there a particular message that had a higher-than-average open rate? Identify what made that communication unique and replicate that in your future messages. It’s like having a virtual audience clapping at something you said during a speech. Use feedback! – Maurice Harary, The Bid Lab
10. Talk To People On The Outside
I think that depending on who you ask for tips on communicating you’re going to yield different results. Asking your team what you’re doing wrong doesn’t always generate an honest opinion. Sometimes it’s good to get outside the business and talk to someone you trust for a candid opinion. It’s good to hear someone’s unbiased opinion, someone from the outside. – Hoda Mahmoodzadegan, BAḴT Global
11. Join A Public Speaking Organization
In almost every city, Toastmasters International chapters exist to help professionals hone their speaking and communication skills. For around $100 a year, you can have a membership to meet once a week to practice and improve your communication skills and build leadership skills. It’s by far the best value of anything else out there and the skills learned are invaluable. – Jessica Blotter, Kind Traveler
12. Get Better At Leading Meetings
Leaders at every level in an organization need to communicate effectively. A good way to improve your skills in this regard is by leading your own meetings: Prepare the agenda, engage attendees and pay attention to how much energy is put into the meeting’s takeaways. If you refine your ability to lead productive meetings, you’ve taken an important step in improving your communication skills. – Cameron Jacox, Lark Technologies Inc.
13. Focus On What The Other Person Is Trying To Say
The best communication advice I share with all leaders from CEOs to directors, to anyone with a direct report is to simply stop and listen. You don’t have to do anything else, but listen and seriously focus on the other person and what they’re trying to tell you. When you do respond, start by using their words to let them know you heard what they were saying and clarify that you got it right. – Sharon Lynn Livingston, The Livingston Center for Professional Coaching
14. Aim To Build Trust By Listening
Our innate desire to be understood is a powerful force. Expressing that you fully understand the other builds trust. One way to do this is to be fully present, eliminate distractions and repeat back (in your words) what the other expressed before you respond. By showing you are listening, your response becomes more significant as you have already satisfied a deep-rooted need to be understood. – Sara Abbas, Ev0lver Inc.
15. Focus On Self-Improvement First
Leaders who have an honest sense of self, and are in tune with their people, are best at aligning their team with the company goals, strategy and culture. This happens by being focused on improvement for oneself, the company and the growth of reports. Lead by doing. Practice active listening and self-reflection. This naturally sets the stage, allowing goals to be achieved with greater volition. – Dawn Massa Stancavish, Massa Products Corporation