In our article Building Credibility as a Leader, we wrote about key building blocks of trust as transparency, strong personal convictions, letting go of perfection, to invite, listen, observe and sharing personal stories. Effective communication will ensure that you communicate with others in a way that allows you to build trust.
What then are some key tools we can use to ensure our communication is effective every time?
We’ve found a great ‘systems view’ of communication in Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy* which breaks effective communication down into considering:
- What is your intention?
- How are you going to express what you want to say?
- How has it been received?
- Was it understood?
Lets break these down further.
When you have something important to communicate it is important that you think about the purpose of your message. Why are you saying what you need to say. What is the outcome that you are looking for – is it to announce a new process or policy. Do you need to share a summary of the latest training event you have attended. Or are you pitching for a promotion or pay raise. By understanding the purpose of your communication, you can consider your approach and turn your mind to how that information is best presented.
Once you understand your purpose think about the medium – will you have an in person conversation, should you communicate by email. Is this a private meeting in person or a group meeting with all team members. You should even consider how you present the information – is this a presentation that you should have a slide deck for, should you prepare a summary sheet for key take aways from your recent conference. Ensure that you consider who is receiving the message and how they might best receive it.
Make sure that you have a mechanism to check that your key points have been received and understood. Be careful with jokes or sarcasm that might be lost on your audience, particularly if it is an important message you are delivering. Ask questions of your audience, seek feedback. Check in as the conversation progresses. You don’t want to walk away from your conversation with heads nodding and then wonder why no progress has been made.
Coming back to your audience – in addition to being conscious of how your audience receives information, think about the ego, any biases or assumptions that the receiver might have. Will that impact the message you are trying to deliver. Are there different ways you can communicate your message to account for these.
After your conversation or presentation take the time to reflect on how it went. What went well. Did you communicate the message you intended to communicate. Was the message received as you intended. Have you learned anything from the process. What then is the next step.
Most importantly pay attention to what is going on around you in these conversations. You will pick up verbal and non-verbal messages as well as cues which will assist you in considering the direction your conversation is headed and how you might adapt on the run to ensure your message is received.
In the same way that you might rehearse an important speech or presentation, taking the time to step through these considerations (and rehearsing if needs be) will ensure that you communicate your message effectively.
* Richard L. Hughes, Robert C. Ginnett and Gordy J. Curphy, Leadership: enhancing the Lessons of Experience (8th Ed), 2015