“Communication is the real work of leadership.” Nitin Nohria
Effective communication is a key skill for leaders to successfully manage different types of people. But knowing how to get your point across clearly, while making sure your team feels heard, is something we tend to have to learn once we’re already in a leadership position.
While different groups may require different communication or leadership styles, we’ve found 5 key qualities that can help improve your communication as a leader.
Whether it’s a new team or you are a new leader, don’t try to be something you’re not. Talk honestly and authentically about what’s going and your expectations for a project. Not only does this authenticity build rapport, but it can make your team feel trusted and valued.
Example: Let your team know if you have other obligations (such as picking up kids from school, caring for a parent or spouse) where you will leave early. Communicate that they are welcome to this as well.
We get it, being a leader can be scary! You have a lot of responsibility and there can be a weight on your shoulders to get things done right. Women also have to deal with the bias that they are representing all women (or, for women of color, all women AND their race). It can be a daunting task.
But it is important to remember that you were promoted for a reason. You have shown your skill and competency to higher-ups, and it is critical to show that to your team. Always be open to hearing new ideas, but also let your team know they are in good hands.
Example: Set goals for yourself and your team. Keep these goals public and show your team how you meet your goals. Offer help or advice for anyone who may be struggling. Offer to mentor junior employees.
Check in and Be Accountable
Checking in with your team can establish that everyone is on the same page and that you can get ahead of a problem before it becomes too big. This does not mean you have to micromanage, but that you ensure that people know they can come to you with a problem.
In that same vein, you must show your team you can be accountable for your own actions. If you make a mistake or are encountering your own issues, demonstrate to your team how you deal with it. How you communicate during your own errors will set the precedent for how all problems will be dealt with.
Example: Own up to a mistake. If a member of your team comes to you with a suggestion or complaint, don’t go on the defensive. Listen and learn how you can fix the issue. Be sure to follow through and check-in with the team member that you are properly addressing what was wrong.
Practice Active Listening
Active listening is an important skill for all members of a team, but it can be even more important for a leader. If a member of your team comes to you, listen, ask questions, and clarify what they are saying. Whether it’s an issue with the project or just presenting facts, asking questions makes sure that all parties understand what is going on and that the speaker feels heard.
Example: During 1-on-1’s ask your employee if they need help with any areas of work. Listen when they explain their work week for any tasks or projects that will take a considerable amount of time. Volunteer to help or let them know you will find someone who can help them.
Value Your Team
Most people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. If you spend your time micro-managing employees, calling them frequently over small things, or constantly questioning their contributions, their morale will shrink.
Instead, empower your employees to take control of certain aspects of a project and let them know that you appreciate them. This may need to be communicated in different ways, but spending time trusting and valuing your team will go a long way in results.
Example: Offer praise, ask questions, and take the advice of your team. Spend time letting them know that value their input enough to take their advice. Allow other team members to lead meetings or control a portion of a project.
As a leader, the true key to communicating with your team is trust. You must trust that they will do their jobs correctly like they will trust you to lead the team in the right direction. If you start to feel a lack of trust, talk openly with the team member. Review expectations, listen to why your employee is struggling, and come up with a plan to fix the issue.
Everyone has their own communication style, but if you use these 5 traits to develop that style, you should see an improvement in both your communication and leadership skills!