Effective communication skills are crucial for effective leadership. Listening to others is an excellent communication skill, and you’ll be surprised at just how much you can learn by simply listening to and observing others. Practice this, and you’ll soon find you have a clearer picture of what is expected of you as a leader. But adding empathy, conciseness, and upward communication to the mix can boost your effectiveness even more.
Active listening is an essential communication skill that many leaders fail to master. It’s essential to show interest in the speaker and give them your full focus. Your interest may be a result of your own personal curiosity about the topic or because you respect their opinions and value them as a person. To practice active listening, turn off your phone, set aside your laptop, move away from your desk, and make sure that the speaker has your full attention. By doing this, you’ll be much more likely to retain what the speaker is saying and remember the details later.
Leadership requires interpersonal relationships, and active listening is an important way to build these relationships. Ineffective listening may prevent leaders from understanding the problems that others, or the organization, are facing or from acknowledging them in a positive way. It may also prevent leaders from brainstorming and developing innovative solutions. Not actively listening may even lead to insubordination, poor morale, and reduced productivity, which can be detrimental to the organization. That said, set yourself up for success by creating space away from work distractions where you can give team members your full attention by actively listening.
Strong leaders are able to convey essential information in the fewest words, both when speaking and writing. Their communication is tailored to the audience and situation. For example, if you get a follow-up question right away, you’ve probably not been as concise as you could have been. You might also be missing important details. Not being concise creates additional work for others and for you. It’s important to plan what you say before speaking whenever possible. What is essential for listeners to hear? Scrap anything that isn’t. Anticipate potential questions in advance and plan to address them in your speaking. If you can, bring notes or create a presentation containing important bullet points to keep you on track. When writing, start with bullet points and expand. Once you’ve written a message, go back and see if you can cut it down further.
Leaders who use strategic empathy report less stress, greater happiness, and professional success. This communication strategy can help you build relationships with your team and make them feel heard and appreciated. Even if you’re working with people remotely, people can feel connected to their leaders if strategic empathy is used effectively. The key to effective remote collaboration is understanding your coworkers’ perspectives, assuming good intentions, and imparting your best thinking.
Leadership that focuses on empathy is the most effective way to inspire people to work hard. Empathic leaders are willing to acknowledge their team members’ difficulties and strive to help them. It can lead to better performance, higher employee satisfaction, and increased retention. Empathetic leaders also acknowledge that their team members may have personal concerns but do not let them interfere with their work. Ultimately, empathic leaders build relationships with their team members and are more engaging, understanding, and solution-oriented.
Most managers and leaders operate within the chain of command, which is the process of employees communicating with direct supervisors and moving up the chain. However, it doesn’t mean that valuable lessons can’t be learned from upward communication. Upward communication is direct communication between upper and lower-level employees, where the communication flows from the lower level to the upper. Upward communication can look like focus groups, surveys or suggestion boxes, and various types of meetings. The purpose of upward communication is for managers and high-level leaders to get direct feedback from team members. This can help inform decisions, make employees feel valued, offer valuable insights into how the team feels, and more.
What communication strategies and skills do you think are important as a leader? How would you recommend someone implement these in their workplace so they can be more effective? Let us know in the comments!