Good communication skills are an important quality for any leader. Whether you lead teams, projects, a whole company or your local chess club, it doesn’t really matter.
Leadership is about communication, and good communication skills will set you apart where other leaders fall short.
Why Leadership Communication Skills Are So Important
Leaders with good communication skills are valuable indeed! When a leader has good communication skills, you are likely to see the following:
- People know what is expected of them: Clear expectations are important and leaders with good communication skills will make sure team members understand what’s needed.
- Team members are less confused: Confusion is common when people aren’t clear on who is doing what in a team. Good communicators will make sure everybody in the team knows what the roles and responsibilities are.
- There are less surprises: Nobody likes surprises at work. When a leader communicates well, they make sure people understand when work is due. They also make sure that people understand the key aspects they need to know, to do their job well.
Learn More: Top 5 Leadership Skills for Career Success.
Must-Have Leadership Communication Skills
Saying a leader must have good communication skills is quite broad. So let’s narrow it down. Here are my top five communication skills that will stand you in good stead in your leadership and management career.
1. Listening Like a Leader (That means really listening).
You can’t lead anything without listening to the people around you.
Really listening, not just pretending to listen. When you listen to your team, colleagues and your boss, you learn what the key challenges are in your team or project. Most importantly, you’ll show people that you care, because you take time to hear their point of view.
When you take time to listen rather than just waiting for your turn to speak, you’ll understand more about how people are feeling. You’ll also learn what actions you could take to improve the situation.
Make sure you eliminate distractions and put away your electronic devices when you’re speaking your team members. Be present, and show signs that you’re actually listening, like nodding and reiterating what they say.
The next time you’re talking to someone, observe your behaviour. Did you listen, or were you just thinking about what you were going to say next?
2. Keeping Your Message Short
If you can explain yourself in the fewest possible number of words, you’re winning. Why?
Because when you use fewer words, people can understand your message faster. When you are not speaking, other people can contribute too.
Here is one of my favourite quotes, from Mark Twain:
“I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.”
Keeping your message short and sweet is harder than saying everything. When you’re concise, you need to focus on what matters and get rid of the rest.
And if you spend all your time talking, nobody else will be saying anything. Unfortunately, this means you may be missing out on important information. Say or write just enough, no more, and then seek to understand what other people are thinking.
I once worked for a manager who would write huge weekly emails to everyone in her department. They were full of all manner of topics, and sometimes there was actually some important information in there.
The problem was, many people ignored the emails because they were too long. Don’t let this happen to you!
3. Asking Good Questions
Another of the good communication skills that leaders need is to ask questions. It doesn’t sound like much of a skill really, does it? Anyone can ask a question, but many leaders don’t.
When you ask questions, you achieve several outcomes:
- People around you feel like their opinions matter.
- You gather information that you might be missing.
- You make it clear that you don’t think you know everything.
I’ve worked with plenty of managers who don’t bother to ask questions, because they think they know it all.
Ask more questions and be genuinely interested in the answer, and see what happens.
4. Noticing Body Language
Often, some of the most important signals people will give you are not spoken. You might see people with crossed arms in your meeting. Maybe they’re cold, or perhaps they don’t like what you’re saying.
If you watch closely, you’ll see how people are responding to you.
Are people smiling? Looking nervous? Frowning? Rolling their eyes?
There are many signs to look for, but the important thing is that you make the effort to observe them. Only if you see the non-verbal signs will you be able to adapt your approach to avoid problems. Failing to see the non-verbal signals in the room means you might be going down the wrong path.
Over time you’ll start to notice body language in your team, and what it means. You can test your understanding by speaking openly with your team members about how they are feeling.
The next time you’re in a meeting, be intentional about observing body language. The more perceptive you are, the better you can respond to the different leadership situations that appear.
Learn More: To learn more about understanding non-verbal signals, read this LifeHacker post.
5. Playing Back and Summarising
When you’ve come out of a meeting, or you’ve just had a discussion, it’s a good idea to summarise what has just been said and play it back to your audience.
This has several benefits:
- It clarifies any decisions or outcomes that have just been discussed, so there is no confusion.
- You give people a chance to provide feedback; and
- You reduce the chance that people will disagree with you later, because you’ve already confirmed and played back the outcomes.
When you have significant meetings or discussions, it’s a good idea to summarise the outcomes in writing and send them to the people involved. This gives them a chance to review and confirm what you spoke about.
This has the great benefit of stopping surprises and confusion. If you don’t do this, watch when people come back weeks later and say “I never agreed to that!”
Good communication skills make a good leader. Focus on these top communication skills and see the difference it can make for you and your team.
Need to Develop Better Communication Skills? Try My Leadership Coaching Services.
Leadership communication skills don’t come naturally to everybody, and often nobody teaches us how to communicate.
If you need help developing your communication skills and achieving your leadership goals, contact me to discuss leadership coaching.
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What do you think are the most important communication skills for leaders? Leave a comment below and let me and the other Thoughtful Leaders know!