Effective communication is consistently mentioned as one of the most critical skills needed for leadership. One of the most common jobs of an executive coach is to work with a client on their communication skills in order to help them move successfully into leadership positions. There are numerous ways to describe what effective communication looks and sounds like. Here are three elements of communication that are vital — but not related to your ability to speak or your presentation skills. They emphasize putting yourself in the recipient’s shoes and addressing them in the most effective way based on that.
A great deal of communication depends on making an authentic, human connection with others. Empathy is the capacity to recognize and relate to the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of another person. Genuine empathy is strongly connected to trust, and trust helps to drive effective communication.
When you demonstrate empathy, you are showing that you are listening and that you care. In turn, empathy paves the way for your listener to be more positive and open to communication from you. For more, including how to build your capacity to empathize, read “Authentic Leadership and the Practice of Empathy.”
Understand Non-Verbal Signals
We are all encouraged to be active listeners. At Arden Coaching, we coach to a deeper level of listening, called “Level Three Listening.” Active listening (level two) usually focuses on what someone is saying. Level Three Listening takes includes how someone is saying something, why, when, and where they are saying it.
The “how” is primarily non-verbal. If you are not noticing (and adapting) to someone’s facial expression, or body language, you are missing a big chunk of what they are trying to tell you, and that makes you a less effective communicator. Someone who’s not making eye contact and has their arms folded is probably not “getting you,” no matter how eloquent or persuasive you are feeling. With practice, you’ll come to recognize the signals more quickly.
The Right Time and the Right Place
When and where you communicate has a significant impact on your success as a communicator. Great communicators are intentional about when and where they deliver a message.
What’s the situation? Difficult or bad news? Delivering that at the end of a long day, or appending it to another topic, will typically not be received well. Do you need to talk about a performance issue with an employee? Bringing it up in a public setting will likely be a recipe for disaster. Announcing an important strategic initiative via email will not be nearly as effective as an employee get-together.
Learn more about, and practice, these skills, and your abilities as a communicator and leader will grow substantially.