Communication skills are like any other skills in life; if you don’t use them, you lose them. But as an aspiring leader, there are five communication skills you’ll need to be successful – some of which may surprise you – that you should make a point to develop and maintain as best you can. Communicating effectively isn’t always easy, but with hard work and dedication, these five communication skills can help put you on the path to leading more effectively.
1) Accept Feedback
There’s no such thing as a perfect leader. The ability to adapt, change and improve is an essential skill for leaders of all levels. Feedback from employees, clients or peers can be your most valuable tool to success. Take it in, learn from it and use that information to become better at your job. If you keep receiving negative feedback regarding a certain area of your leadership style, make it a point to work on that skill until you’ve mastered it. Otherwise, bad habits will continue to surface over time, causing problems throughout your organization.
Looks Don’t Matter: Of course, as business owners we tend to think that our appearance matters.
2) Ask Questions
There’s nothing like a good question to get people thinking and talking. A skillful leader knows how to ask questions and use them for their own benefit, making them an essential part of your leadership arsenal. Asking questions helps you find out more about what’s going on with your team, while also forcing you to listen. When used as part of a thoughtful strategy, they can be invaluable in building momentum toward a goal or creating engagement around an issue that matters. They are extremely helpful when it comes to changing behavior, re-orienting attitudes, developing teamwork and generally keeping employees happy and productive. It takes confidence to ask someone direct questions but with practice you will become very comfortable doing so. The best way to start is by posing open-ended questions that require more than just a yes or no answer; these types of question give others room to share information about themselves in an organic way versus using standard ice breaker type questioning techniques.
3) Listen Actively
Listening actively is one of those skills that you can’t really teach, but you can certainly practice. By really listening to your team members (and other leaders), you can learn how they work best, understand their motivations, and determine if there are ways to help them succeed. Listening isn’t just a leadership skill; it’s a communication skill that everyone needs in order to be successful at his or her job. A lot of people feel like because they don’t talk much—or perhaps aren’t always speaking when conversations arise—that they aren’t very good listeners. But great listeners exhibit these qualities: They listen attentively. They ask questions when they don’t understand something or want clarification on an idea/point/thought someone else made. They make an effort to keep eye contact during conversations, so as not to seem uninterested in what another person has to say.
4) Be Direct
If you want people to give you honest feedback, then you need to do your part and be direct with them. Always ask yourself if there’s a way to word things in such a way that’s more direct. If you don’t have time to deal with someone’s nonsense, say so. The same goes for criticism: if you have something negative to say, just come out and say it instead of beating around the bush or trying to be overly diplomatic. And try not to take things personally; negativity doesn’t always mean someone has ill intentions—sometimes they’re just coming from a good place. And since you can easily flip positives into negatives (like this idea sucks! versus you suck!), hopefully, we can all exercise an extra measure of patience when communicating with one another.
5) Use a Balanced Approach
How can leaders strike a balance between vision and communication? By focusing on four key areas: people, process, technology and personal branding. The first step to leading effectively is connecting with your team. By becoming a more effective communicator at work, you become a better leader. First and foremost, understand that people will do anything for you but not everything for you. Be wary of those who promise to do whatever you ask them to because in reality they will only do as much as they have agreed to do. Instead focus on encouraging your team to do more than what you are asking of them. This creates an environment where each individual feels needed and valued—and these employees will be willing to go beyond their assigned tasks when necessary. Make sure employees know exactly what actions are expected from them by using small recurring assignments rather than large sporadic ones whenever possible. These smaller tasks create less stress for both parties and make it easier for managers to hold their teams accountable.