Talk Is Not Cheap
We'll state it plainly and simply: if you cannot communicate well, you cannot lead well.
In the past, we've identified bad communication as a highway to business failure, but miscommunication doesn't just ruin businesses from the outside, it breaks down workflows and limits organisational efficiency severely on the inside. Running your business efficiently is, more than anything else, dependent on the effectiveness with which you pass your messages to the people working for you.
Let's tell you what you must do to communicate effectively.
1. Begin with a purpose.
Before you open your mouth to speak or go about sending some kind of message to your staff, you must be clear about why you're communicating, what you want to achieve and how your communication could be received. Write your thoughts on paper or a note-taking app to clarify them before communicating, keeping them specific and brief. If they are clear to you, it shouldn't be so hard to clarify them to someone else.
2. Be human.
Don't be a cold and unfeeling machine spewing out corporate lingo that doesn't mean anything to the person or people you're speaking to. You have a soul and it should be present in your communication. Whether you're addressing one person or a hundred, your communication must always feel personal. Speak with empathy and sincerity, use everyday language and keep your ego in check. You're not in competition with your staff, don't make them feel small and irrelevant.
Pay attention, not just to what is said but also to what isn't: vocal nuances, facial expressions, gestures indicating agreement or disagreement. The best communicators keep their ears (and eyes) open much longer than they move their lips. Seriously. Communication is a two-way street and you must, at the very least, listen as much as you speak.
Let's bring this home, shall we?
There's a nasty Nigerian workplace culture of managers talking down at their subordinates, pouring out destructive criticism and undermining their self-esteem. This is not just wrong, it is the worst way to communicate. You're never going to help your staff grow or get the best out of them if you take this misguided route.
A good manager doesn't bark commands, your organisation is not a barracks. While making sure your staff are disciplined is a great thing, you must not go about it by yelling and cultivating fear. If you're pleased that your employees are afraid of you and unable to approach you, you need to check yourself quickly.
4. Make room for negative reactions.
Unless you're conversing with a doll, it is silly to expect that your audience won't have a reaction to what you say. People won't always agree with you and that's okay. They are entitled to their feelings and opinions even when those are in conflict with yours. Let your staff express how they feel without fear that you'll 'deal' with them if they raise a dissenting voice. Some of the healthiest and most progressive conversations you can have with your staff will involve some back-and-forth analysis and constructive criticism on both sides. You'll be surprised at how much will come to light during such conversations.
5. Prepare to adjust.
Adaptability is one of the most defining characteristics of the human race; our ability to bend, adjust and alter our behaviours and lifestyles has been key to our survival on this planet. Similarly, an important component of effective communication is your ability to change your position when confronted with new and compelling information. When conversations with your staff go well, insights are likely to drop. Don't let them go to waste by being a rigid know-it-all. Use what you learn to modify your position, proving to your staff that you value their opinions and are open to change. That's how to set an example.
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