The Communication Technique That Will Make You a Better Leader

Why is it that a professional will be fully engaged in a youtube video for 20 minutes but mentally check out of their boss’s team meeting in the first 5 minutes? Lazy or unwilling clearly wouldn’t be the right words. It often comes down to the quality of the communication they receive.  

There are many skills leaders must develop and demonstrate to be effective over time. Research by LearnLoft indicates relationship building, coaching, accountability, and communication are in the top four. However, communicating is the one that ultimately causes success or failure.  

Communication is the leadership skill that ultimately causes success or failure.

Take Robert, a sales manager in the aftermarket car industry, as an example. When the performance and motivation of Ginger, one of his star salespeople, saw a dramatic dip, he did what most managers do. He attempted to motivate her with money. He provided an increased commission structure and gave her a pep talk.

After a few months of continued lackluster results, Robert started to believe that Ginger’s best days were behind her. In a coaching session, we unpacked his previous attempts to assist Ginger and covered some alternative approaches that revolved around improving communication. I told Robert two lessons from the Effective Leadership Communication workshop. First, “you can’t motivate others, but you can inspire them.” Second, “the effectiveness of your communication determines the ceiling of your leadership.”

The effectiveness of your communication determines the ceiling of your leadership.

These two lessons spurred a conversation that led to a communication technique that immediately moved the needle with Ginger. It’s what I call, “Remind them of the reason.”

Remind Them of the Reason

Everybody, whether they admit it or not, wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves and do meaningful work during their lives. For example, in the case of Ginger, she admitted to Robert that she wasn’t motivated by the increase in commission and that ultimately she had forgotten the reason for her work beyond just making money for herself. 

Robert took this opportunity to inspire Ginger by “reminding her of the reason.” Here is what Robert said to Ginger in a one-on-one:

“The aftermarket car industry is ripe with deceit causing average Americans to be taken advantage of. It’s our job to keep the trustworthy mechanics and independent shop owners in a place where they can thrive. So every American has a trustworthy auto shop with the best service and prices.” He continued, “So the next time you want to give up when a shop owner tells you they don’t have time, remember; we are on a mission to help auto shop owners save $10M this year alone. We do this by providing a world-class eCommerce marketplace to empower independent shop owners to buy quality products at wholesale pricing.”  

Not only did Ginger’s performance improve after their talk, but she wrote a note on her whiteboard, “Remind Yourself of the Reason Daily.” The story of Robert and Ginger reminds us of an essential leadership lesson: 

Part of your responsibility as a leader is to constantly remind your team of the deeper reason behind their work.

If you lead a team, do not go another minute without being clear on why your team does what it does and its purpose for existence. By reminding people of the reason for their work, you’ll immediately raise the ceiling of what’s possible. When things get complicated (and they will), this deeper reason will give your team a reason to continue, even through the most trying times. 

Effective Communication Starts by Listening and Observing

What’s the best way to inspire and communicate with others? Most people would assume it’s about speaking, which wouldn’t be wrong. However, effective communication isn’t just about speaking, it’s also about listening and observing. 

Effective communication isn't just about speaking but also about listening and observing.

Knowing when and how often to remind your team of the reason is impossible without listening to your people. There has never been a more critical time to replace your judgemental mind with your eyes and ears. One of the best ways to do this is to distinguish between hearing and listening.  You could write a whole book about the topic, but a simple way to think about the difference:

Hearing is with your ears, listening is with your mind.

Be intentional and create interactions that allow you to be present and truly listen to your people. You will be amazed at what you learn, which will allow you to connect with them and inspire them better.

Closing

Here’s the hard truth about being an effective communicator and inspiring others. You won’t naturally connect with everyone, and everyone won’t buy into the deeper reason for your work. While it would be great you could, you can’t choose for them. Your responsibility is to communicate effectively and inspire them to action daily. 

Effective Leadership Communication Workshop Start Communicating more confidently and effectively as a leader. Sign up for the next Effective Leadership Communication Workshop Friday, February 25th at 12 PM EST.

John’s New Book John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Communicate Like a Great Leader

communication

Leadership, like life, is a journey and not a destination.  

Now I must emphasize one point before you start reading this column that will attempt to make you a better leader. Writing and doing are two different things. Yes, I have spent the last 10+ years of my career studying what the best and worst leaders do, then transferring those lessons to myself and others, but I have struggled mightily to apply many of these lessons daily. Instead of crushing my soul and believing I am not meant to be a great leader, it’s convicted me to constantly look at the journey of becoming a better leader rather than just arriving as one.  

I have learned that the closer you get to being a truly authentic leader, the less you feel like one.  

The closer you get to being a truly authentic leader, the less your feel like one. 

In many things, ignorance can be bliss, but not in leadership. There is nothing worse than a manager who isn’t self-aware of their shortcomings as a leader. It’s caused more professionals to leave a company or a profession altogether than any other factor. Don’t believe me? A recent study found a staggering 79% of employees will quit after receiving inadequate appreciation from their managers.

Many Leadership Skills Matter

There are many talents and skills leaders must develop and demonstrate to be effective over time. Our research indicates building trust, having empathy, establishing a vision, giving recognition, and coaching others are essential. However, communicating effectively is at the top of the list. 

It could be as simple as writing an email, giving a presentation, sending a text, or turning on your listening ears. Regardless of the type of communication, the key is that you’re effective at it. I like to think of it as the essential rule of leadership. “If you struggle with communication, you will never reach your potential as a leader.”  

If you struggle with communication, you will never reach your potential as a leader.

As I wrote in Building the Best, the key to successful leadership today is elevating others. So the problem with not reaching your potential as a leader is you won’t be helping others achieve theirs.  

The Big Communication Mistake

There are a lot of gifted orators with silver tongues and unmistakable mannerisms. At the same time, many professionals clam at the thought of delivering a presentation. Regardless of the camp you are in, or somewhere in between, there is one communication mistake anyone is susceptible to make, and that is demanding and downloading, not inspiring.  

Too many leaders demand and download instead of inspire when communicating.

This doesn’t mean every email or conversation must have your audience ready to run through a wall, but it does mean you have to be more concerned with the audience than the person doing the communicating. The word inspire means “to breathe life into.” You can’t breathe life into someone or get someone else to take any action they wouldn’t otherwise take if you don’t get past their mind and into their heart.  

Communication improves when leaders get to the employees’ hearts, not just their minds.

I was reminded of this truth in a conversation with a talented therapist named Kimberly Mengel. She said, “the heart is the wellspring of life.” It’s stuck with me for some time now because I have repeatedly seen when leaders fail in their communication, they never get to their people’s hearts.  

How to Improve Your Communication

There are all kinds of tactics and strategies to become a more effective communicator. Instead of going into the depths of storytelling or the three C’s of successful communication, I want you to turn your attention to two things; how much you speak and being more transparent.  

1.How Much You Speak – Being an exceptional listener is key to being a great communicator. Not only is this true, but Simon Sinek took it a step further in a keynote some years ago, when he spoke about “being the last to speak.” You can watch the short clip here

As brilliant as this idea is, I know it’s not always possible. Instead, turn your attention to “how much you speak.” Your goal as a leader shouldn’t be to tell people what to do. It should be to help them determine what to do and what can be done to implement it. This means speaking less and asking better questions.

2. Be More Transparent – All too often, when there are things leaders must say to people, they avoid the topic or sugarcoat it in a way the truth never comes out. Instead, I want you to opt for more transparency in your communication. The reason is transparency implies openness and accountability. 

I asked Robert Quesnel, a seasoned executive and phenomenal leader at American Family Insurance, why leaders aren’t transparent, and what he said moved me. “Many leaders aren’t transparent because they are insecure narcissists and lack confidence in themselves.” Not only is Quesnel right, but too many leaders hide behind the shield their title provides instead of being transparent and telling the truth. 

Too many leaders hide behind the shield their title provides instead of being transparent and telling the truth.

Closing

The best part of communication is you get endless opportunities every day to work on improving. I hope some of these ideas inspire you to evaluate how much you speak and how transparent you are in and effort to apply them on your leadership journey.

Tell me in the comments Do you agree and what tactics or strategies do you or others leaders leverage to be effective communicators?

Effective Leadership Communication Ready to improve your communication skills? Register for the virtual workshop.

John’s New Book. John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read or listen to the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and VP of Thought Leadership at Peoplebox. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.