Blog post,  Leadership

Communicating as a leader

I have had a few clients say to me lately “I am terrible at communicating. I am just not great at it.” They are experts in their field. Experienced, knowledgeable and at the senior level of their government agencies. The further you move up the ladder, the harder it is to meet all of the expectations about how to communicate within your organisation.

Being able to clearly communicate your ideas, share strategic direction and manage expectations requires skills and practice. You need to be able to communicate upwards to senior executive and board, to colleagues, your leadership team and your staff. Not everyone is born a natural communicator, some of us have to work very hard at it. Being aware that you need this as a skill is just as important as actually knowing how to do it.

I think there are a few simple things that everyone can do to communicate more effectively.

Communicate in a way that you are comfortable with

You don’t have to be the all singing all dancing leader. If you aren’t great at huge flashy presentations, then have small group conversations. If you hate writing, then talk to people face to face. It might take more time, but you will be more authentic because you are more comfortable.

Authenticity counts

Key to being good at communications is being yourself. You will need to adapt your style to suit different scenarios and different people, but you can’t change who you are. Don’t try to sound or act like someone you’re not.

Showing staff and colleagues who you are, where you come from, and what you value through your communications is vital if you want them to engage with you and create closer working relationships. Open up and be willing to give your people the chance to get to know you.

Visibility is a form of communication

If you want to communicate well, don’t be out of sight. Even if you aren’t comfortable with it, this is now part of being a leader. You can’t be known by your emails alone. Show up, in person, as often as possible. Walk the floor, make a cup of tea in the kitchen, go to a team meeting. People need to see who you are, this will make them feel more connected to you and the work you want them to do. Find ways to interact with people in a way that suits you and them.

Remember it’s not about you, it’s about them

In all communications remember that you are communicating to someone else. This isn’t about you and what you need to tell them. It is about what your staff need (and want) to know to do their jobs well. What your boss needs to know to keep informed or take action. You aren’t doing this for yourself, you are doing it because it is what they need from a leader.

Communicating as a leader is tough work. You will fail. You will disappoint some people. It is inevitable. But communicating effectively, is key to being an effective leader. It isn’t as hard or as scary as you think. You just need to work at it and keep trying, your staff will respect you for it.

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