Principles for Better Leadership Communications

Principles for Better Leadership Communications

Here are ten principles every great leader should know.

1. Everything communicates. The way programs, policies, tools, and initiatives are designed and delivered communicates more strongly than the marketing and information about them. And, as a leader, how you act and what you do, communicates more clearly than the words coming out of your mouth.

2. Model the behavior you are looking for from others. Communicate with your employees the way you would like to be communicated with — transparent, open, with respect and trust. And do the things you believe matter. If you believe customer and employees matter, and you focus on them, so will everyone else. 

3. Have a point of view. It’s much easier to have consistent communication when you have a clear brand or core values — whatever you want to call it. But whatever you call “it”, you better have it. Just be sure it is clear, easy to remember, makes sense for the business, has an element of inspiration, differentiates you as an employer, will hold up for at least ten years, and is everyone’s job to live it — and that means you. 

4. What you hear is as important as what you say.Communication is a two-way process. Have a number of upward channels and do something with what you hear — and tell people about it. 

5.You haven’t communicated anything until you have been heard by your audiences.Understand your audience. Take a lesson from the marketers — know the demographics and psychographics of your various audiences and tailor communication messages, content, style, and channels to them. 

6. They both end in “tion” but there’s a big difference between “information” and “communication”. Communication influences thoughts, feelings, and actions. Information simply informs. And how you communicate depends on what you are communicating. If you are trying to engage people, don’t use e-mail or video conferencing.  

7.Communicate courageously.
If you communicate openly and honestly, you will make some mistakes but those mistakes will be better than the bland, sanitized, and uninspiring communications in many companies. And there will be times when you don’t have the answer. Admit it. Your employees will understand and will respect your courage and honesty. Both are in short supply. 

8. Remember you are competing for attention.Every employee receives hundreds of messages every day. Your message competes with all of them. Each person selects what to pay attention to and what to ignore. Why should employees pay attention to messages from you? 

9. If it looks important, it must be important. How you package the communication about programs has a big impact on perceptions of the program itself. Match the packaging to the level of importance. And if you follow up, it must be even more important. Too many executives think once they’ve communicated, they are done. They couldn’t be more wrong. Redundancy matters. 

10. Great communicators practice.
A lot. Writers write and rewrite. Great orators like Winston Churchill and more contemporary speakers like Malcolm Gladwell -practice and rehearse. Gladwell writes out every word of every speech. They are good at what they do because they work at it.

And if you do just one thing, do this: Choose future managers for their communication skills as much as their achievements. Front line managers have the greatest influence over an employee’s engagement. Managers who are good communicators get more from their direct reports than managers whose strong skills lie elsewhere. Managers who are good communicators are the insurance policy for keeping the best workers focused, engaged, and productive.

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