The ability to listen closely and articulate ideas effectively
WHAT IS IT?
Effective communication occurs when one person transmits a message that can be accurately understood by those who are listening, sometimes through active listening or open inquiry. To understand what another person is saying is at the heart of meaningful dialogue. Once one person understands, he or she can respond appropriately.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Communication is the lifeblood of teams, departments, and organizations. It is the engine behind any successful initiative. Solid communication helps everyone to feel heard, communicate needs, understand decisions, and actively engage. By contrast, poor communication can cause inefficiencies or frustrations. If a leader doesn’t clearly communicate what he or she expects, how can group members execute the tasks in accordance with his or her standards? Effective communication at the corporate level, the team level, and the individual level are prerequisites for success.
- Practice Active Listening
First of all, focus on becoming a better listener. As a leader, you have the opportunity to make those around you feel valued and heard. Focus on understanding before you focus on being understood, and let those around you know that you are engaged in your dialogue with them. To do so, develop two skills: asking probing questions and paraphrasing. Probing questions are open-ended questions that help us understand what another person is saying. We can ask, “Will you tell me more about how you arrived at that opinion?” or “What evidence are you using to draw that conclusion?” Another skill is to paraphrase what we think we’ve heard. “So, you think we should invest our money in the youth program rather than the new construction, am I hearing you correctly?” Once you’ve arrived at an accurate understanding, you can respond appropriately.
- Be Firm but Respectful
Second, we need to assert our own ideas with respect and with confidence. Think before you speak, use empathy where possible, and be polite. To add strength to your suggestions, have hard data and compelling evidence that support your position; articulate the support as you share your ideas. An additional option is to use anecdotes or case studies to make your point. The bottom line is to provide support for your ideas so that you can be confident in and stand by your suggestions (that you make respectfully).
- Adapt Your Style
Finally, we need to understand our audience in order to communicate effectively. Presenting to a board of directors might need a different communication style than sharing ideas with your team. Observe your audience, consider their position and preferences, and adapt your content, tone and style based upon what is most appropriate.