Oprah Winfrey is a world-renowned communicator and talented conversationalist, but her greatest quality is her ability to listen.
Author Cheryl Strayed once got to experience Oprah’s effective listening skills firsthand. After Oprah picked Strayed’s Wild for the Oprah Book Club, Strayed got to meet her in person and came away impressed with how well Oprah listened. As Strayed tells it, “I was meeting Oprah, and I wanted her to like me. And Oprah was meeting me, and she wanted me to like her. It wasn’t like meeting the queen, even though, for the record, she is a queen, but she didn’t act like one. She was still this incredibly humble human who was really looking to have an authentic interaction with me, and I thought, this is what has driven her success.”
Oprah Winfrey is living proof that communication is about much more than the words you say. Even if you’re the most eloquent speaker, your communication skills could still be lacking. As a leader, there’s much more to learn than just what to say. In many ways, communication is key to growth and development, so knowing the best ways to communicate can help you excel.
Effective leaders know that communication is key to success, but the unfortunate truth is that many leaders are poor communicators. A poll from Interact/Harris shows that 91 percent of employees say their leaders don’t communicate well. This can lead to higher stress levels, poor productivity, and low employee retention.
If you feel you need to improve how you interact with others, this article will teach you four communication strategies you can put into action starting today.
Communication is Key
Let’s face it, leaders are busy.
A typical leader might oversee creative projects one moment, resolve a conflict the next, and finish it all up by reviewing the company budget. Though these roles are crucial, nothing is more important to a leader than developing a vision and communicating that to their team.
Communication is the key to seeing success and development in all aspects of your life. Effective communicators see the following benefits at work.
- Increased employee engagement. Employees become more engaged when they know their leaders listen to them and address their concerns.
- Greater clarity on purpose and projects. Few things frustrate workers more than not having a clear view of their goals. Great leaders communicate the importance of their jobs, explaining the “why” behind it all.
- Fewer instances of work burnout. With better communication, workers have more understanding of what they’re doing. This in turn decreases annoyances and frustration, leading to less stress and burnout.
- Increased levels of trust. Put simply, good communication means being more transparent, which allows workers to trust their leaders more.
- Better understanding of how you reach your goals. In addition to knowing the “why,” workers will have a great view of the “how” that makes reaching goals easier.
- Stronger, more closely connected teams. A team that communicates well will grow closer together, leading to more instances of effective cooperation and collaboration.
- Less conflict in the workplace. Effective communication leads to closer teams, which can also cut down on the number of arguments and conflicts that crop up.
4 Communication Strategies for Leaders
1. Make Time for Daily Team Interactions
Effective communication is key to developing empathy for others. Studies have shown that workers crave empathetic leadership, so leaders need to show empathy every day. If team members only hear from you every so often, it becomes that much more difficult to develop a connection.
To improve your communication, take the time to interact with your team members regularly. Practice radical candor during your interactions by giving both praise and criticism. Team members will learn to expect your honest opinion and have the courage to voice their own.
2. Foster Growth Through Communication
Communication success largely depends on helping others see the big picture. Always remind your teammates of who they are and what the vision is.
Work with them to find out their skills and professional goals. Once you know their strengths, give them responsibilities that will drive the most impact in the company. In addition to this, meet with each person regularly to provide feedback. Deliver the feedback with positivity and a firm belief that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to.
One-on-one interviews are excellent opportunities to go over this with your team members. Along with asking them about what their goals are, ask them what you can do to help. Regularly follow up with them as well. A quick question here and there asking about their progress shows that you truly care about their development.
3. Remove Ambiguity From Remote Communication
As many people move to remote or virtual work, communication is the key to ensuring everything still gets done. Remote communication can be tricky to navigate, so be careful to avoid some of the common pitfalls and problems people encounter. One of the most prevalent is ambiguity.
For example, when you ask for an impromptu meeting, don’t send a vague message like, “Got a minute to talk?” That type of message can send people, especially subordinates, into a panic, thinking they’ve done something wrong or are about to receive harsh feedback. Instead, briefly tell them the purpose of the meeting. For example, “Do you have five minutes to chat? Just wanted to quickly review the status of our email marketing project.”
Additionally, when you’re on a remote call, practice the same techniques you would if the meeting was in person. Engage in active listening, positive body language, and non-verbal communication cues such as providing eye contact and nodding while they speak. Affirm what you hear with an appropriate question or comment. Good communication like this helps everyone stay engaged and can help others develop personal relationships.
4. Use Formal Reviews to Communicate Values
Many workers look at formal reviews as unnecessary time wasters. More and more companies have ditched performance reviews in recent years, and that trend looks to continue. However, formal reviews are often underutilized opportunities that give you the chance to put your communication skills into action in a private setting. Perhaps there’s even a direct line connecting a leader’s lack of communication skills with their disdain for formal reviews.
Make sure you use the review to tie back to the company’s values. In other words, all the praise and feedback you give should closely connect with the core values you have shared with the team. Instead of giving a score or grade, talk about how they measure up to those values.
Like with your other interactions, keep things constructive and offer encouragement for future improvements. Remember, communication is a crucial part of helping people grow into their full potential.
Communication is Key to Being a Great Leader
If effective communication isn’t a priority for you right now, it should be. Poor communication has been the downfall of many businesses and individuals. No other tool out there moves the needle more than great communication.
Even if you feel you have a great communication skill set, there are always ways to be a more effective communicator, especially when it comes to listening. The fact remains that listening remains the most undervalued communication skill. A failure to listen is a complete communication failure no matter how well you speak.
If you’re not listening, you can’t get better. The world already has too many managers and bosses who are poor listeners. Don’t become one of them. In your next conversation with a coworker, take the time to listen to what they say. Ditch all distractions, look them in the eye, nod your head, and show them that you understood them with your responses. Listening is the foundation of excellent communication. The better you get at listening, the better you will be at communicating with others.
Ready to learn more about communication? Discover more in the following articles.
The Value of Open Communication in the Workplace
Cross Cultural Communication in the Workplace
The Top 5 Communication Skills Every Leader Needs