Regardless of your station in life, both what you say and how you say it matters. It matters to an even greater degree for those in positions of leadership. Leaders don’t have the luxury of choosing their words in a cavalier fashion. Whether in written or oral form, your vocabulary matters. Few things make an impact, or lack thereof, like the words you allow to flow from your lips or from your keyboard. Even when you think they aren’t, people really are listening to what you say, reading what you write, and making important decisions about you based upon your choice of words.
As a leader, you cannot make the mistake of taking the importance of communication for granted. The ability to effectively communicate with others is often the difference between success and failure in any organization. Leaders should not build themselves into thinking their title, education, influence, or charisma can replace sound communication skills. While the other characteristics certainly don’t hurt, they can be quickly eroded and/or undermined by making poor choices in the words you use and the way you convey them.
Most problems in business could be eliminated through the use of direct, clear, and concise communication. Part of what makes a great communicator is not only possessing a great vocabulary but also knowing how and when to use it. Great orators have commanded the attention and respect of others since the dawn of time. They are rarely ignored or spoken over, but they are the individuals that tend to inspire, motivate, educate, influence, and lead those around them.
Think of those leaders whom you hold in high regard and admire, more often than not, they will have been gifted communicators. Rarely will the people that come to mind ever be described as having a poor command of language or limited vocabularies. But it is not about annunciation, presence, delivery, grammar, syntax, and the like, it is the more subtle elements of communication that separate the truly great communicators from those that bumble and stumble through their interactions with others. When you can understand and incorporate the following five elements into your interactions, you’ll have developed the communications savvy used by some of the world’s best communicators:
1. Is your communication consistent with your character?
Will your communication choices and words stand the test of time, or will they come back to haunt you? It is important to understand that words are not easily forgotten – they can leave a lasting and often indelible impression.
2. Is your communication consistent with your actions?
Nothing hurts a leader’s reputation faster than becoming known for being disingenuous. Do your words build bridges or burn them? Do your words instill confidence or destroy trust? If you say one thing yet do another, it won’t be long before you will lose the confidence of those around you.
3. Are your words intended to help or hinder?
Do they offer constructive criticism, or do they belittle and intimidate? Are your words benefiting others or just yourself? Are your words adding value or just adding to the noise? The goal of every interaction should be leaving others with the feeling that the time spent with you was beneficial to them. If you cannot espouse something helpful, then why say or write anything at all?
4. Does your communication leave room for others?
If your words overshadow or drown-out the words of others, you’ve simply wasted your breath. Remember that most people don’t want to be lectured and that it’s very difficult to learn anything when giving a monologue. However, great things tend to happen when engaged in meaningful dialogue.
5. Does your communication start conversations or end them?
The goal of any interaction is not to have the last word but rather to remain engaged in order to create the desired outcome. You don’t learn, inspire, motivate, influence, educate, or inform by shutting someone down.
Bottom line…The leadership lesson here is that whenever you have a message to communicate (either in written or verbal form), make sure that your message is well reasoned, authentic, specific, consistent, clear, and accurate. Spending a little extra time on the front-end of your message developing as an extension of yourself and your vision will likely save you from considerable aggravation on the back-end.