10 Ways to Lead through Effective Communication

By Lou Solomon
We all love that rare moment when a leader breaks through the noise and says something genuine and meaningful to us. We instantly know something real has happened; we feel safe, sane and hopeful.

Leading through Authentic Communication is about making a human connection. If you can do that, you can relate, bring value, build relationships and grow your impact on the world around you.

Now more than ever, we need you to lead through Authentic Communication. Start by considering the way you show up in all of your interactions.

Image

1. Rethink Your Leadership “Image”

One big obstacle to authenticity is the idea that you may have to maintain a certain leadership image: buttoned-up, all-knowing, unemotional and invulnerable. 

Guess what? 

The world doesn’t need you to fit into an image. We need your leadership, which includes humanity.
 

We also need your warmth. Research shows that leaders who prioritize warmth first, competence and command second, earn our trust. We trust leaders who can occasionally kick back and laugh at their mistakes. We want to work with and for authentic leaders who speak from both the head and the heart.
Image

2. PRACTICE PRESENCE AND LISTEN

“Sawabona” is a greeting among the tribes of northern Natal in South Africa and it means “I see you--I respect and acknowledge you.”

We all want to be seen; we are looking for your respect and acknowledgment.

Being distracted, self-important and inwardly focused is disrespectful to the people around you. In meetings, when you are multitasking and thinking of your own agenda, we feel your absence. 

On the other hand, when you face us and look us in the eye warmly, we know that you are awake to life and care about others. When you lean in, draw us out with intelligent questions and listen, we are free to be ourselves.

Image

3. HUMANIZE CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS

Building trust through Authentic Communication requires two key leadership behaviors: an openness to hearing what employees have to say, and a willingness to respond with straight talk. After all, talk is a two-way affair, isn’t it?

Well, in the old top-down corporate model, not so much. Corporate communications might send out an announcement of the new page-long vision statement. A note from the CEO might accompany the information with the directive, “Share this with your people.” 

Today Corporate Communications presents a wonderful opportunity for leaders to create an environment of conversation. Use simple and clear language. Hold virtual town hall meetings and put yourself on the hot seat. Take questions, listen, and respond. Use internal social platforms to send short video messages that are real and heartfelt. Build a sense of connectedness, spontaneity and authenticity.

Image

4. UNCOVER YOUR AUTHENTIC STYLE OF SPEAKING

Most people don't put the heart and grit into what it takes to inspire action and engage the audience. Typically, leaders have too much to say, they want to use the right technique to say it well, and they don't take enough time to prepare.

The result is a talk about information; and we're up to our necks in the information. What we want is for you to speak from your experience, not the slides. We want your ideas, stories and solutions. 

Whether you run meetings, give seminars, make presentations, or have high-stakes conversations, don't be a different version of yourself. 

Your Authentic Style is the unique and natural way you speak--your stories, word choice, sense of humor, transparency and overall manner of expression. When these things are in alignment, we know you’re the real thing.
Image

5. Craft Strategic Messages

Typical presentations go something like this: “Here’s this great initiative, and here’s how we’re going to do it.”  There isn’t much about why it matters to us. Yet above all the initiatives that require our hard work and commitment, we need to know WHY we are doing it.  

Authentic Communication requires an understanding of who you’re talking to. The moment you step from behind all the noise and tell us what your vision will do for us, you will earn our trust. 

Be thoughtful about your Strategic Messages. Leaders should know three stories: Who I Am; Who We Are; and Where We’re Going.
Image

6. Tell your stories 

Have you noticed that the most interesting leaders have a strong sense of self? They know who they are.  They’ve made sense of their lives. When they share their insights, we lean in. They do that by sharing their stories. They give us glimpses of who they are. 

For example, when you share stories of what you’ve learned from your parents, teachers and other mentors, you reveal your own core values. We can see your heart and how you’ve gained an understanding of life. 

You are sitting on a treasure trove of story material that will give your message’s meaning and depth; story elements you can use to create refreshing and memorable moments in your communication. Story is also the language we use when we brainstorm, collaborate and celebrate.
Image

7. Embrace Development for You and Your Team

It’s simple. Leader self-development gives companies a competitive edge because self-aware leaders do what’s best for employees, customers, the organization, the community and the world. 

Of course, the journey to self-awareness is not for the faint-hearted. It requires your humility, a commitment to the work and the support of an excellent coach. It requires that you recognize what is genuine in you and how it connects with others at the level of trust—as well as the gaps you may have in Emotional IQ.

At the same time, when you offer your team meaningful development, you increase their engagement. You are helping to change the quality of their lives and the integrity of the business because they will attract other strong talent and good human beings. This allows for amazing energy that speeds up your ability to get things done. But when trust is absent, you, your team and the business get mired down in rules and procedures.
Image

8. lean into your strengths 

If you grew up thinking you needed to work harder on the things that didn’t come natural to you than the things that did, you are not alone. Many of us grew up the same way.

Today we know that playing to your strengths allows you to be your best authentic self at work and in life. It also allows you to grow in quantum leaps while working on so-called weaknesses will get you lesser, incremental growth. 

CliftonStrengths® is the renowned assessment developed by the Gallup organization, pioneers in personal development and employee engagement. By taking the assessment you can 1) Discover your strengths and learn how to use them to thrive; 2) discover what you naturally do best; 3) learn how to develop your greatest talents into strengths, and 4) use your personalized results and reports to maximize your potential.
The bottom line, no development program is complete without learning how to harness your strengths.

Image

9. leverage Q&A

Q&A offers a wonderful opportunity for you to engage in a spontaneous,  conversational way with folks. So much so, that you might consider letting Q&A dominate your presentation.

If you need to get things going, ask an individual in the audience, “Gina, your team is playing a big role in this project, what would you like to add to my comments (of course you can give Gina a heads up)?

Listen with generosity. Don’t rush to answer simply because you know the answer. Thank the individual for the question after he or she has finished asking it. Pause before answering. 

Be human. Let them know you don’t know everything, and that you can learn from them. If you do not know the answer, say so. Follow up after the event.

Learn to lift the conversation back to a meaningful conversation if a question is negative or manipulative in any way. Know how to bridge back to key messages with productive content.

Image

10. build belonging

Some of us find true, deep belonging at work, but not everyone. This is no longer acceptable to your employees, customers, stakeholders, or community. 

A sense of belonging is fundamental to the way human beings thrive. We all deserve the ability to make a valuable contribution without fear of being ridiculed or rejected.

When that happens, it’s bad for people, and it’s bad for business. 

If you want to drive engagement, retention, productivity and innovation, then Belonging should be your biggest priority.

More and more companies are investing in Conversations of Belonging that help people share their experiences with bias, and shift their focus to actions they can take to create Belonging.

Diversity, inclusion, psychological safety and belonging are not just popular topics. They are the foundation of a culture that positively impacts all the metrics that matter.

Leading Through Authentic Communication is about keeping promises and “Walking the Talk.” Think about a leader, co-worker, strategic partner, vendor or employee you trust. Why do you trust them? I’ll bet it’s because they are willing to keep big and small promises and choose people over immediate gain. 

It means a healthy alignment between your internal values, communication and actual behavior. People not only watch this play out over time, they know instinctively if you’re the real deal. They know if they are going to trust you, or not.

Are you facing a challenge that could be addressed with Authentic Communication? We can help. Contact us. We would love to meet you.