It’s not easy being a business leader, and one of the most challenging yet important aspects of the job is being an effective communicator. Even when top CEOs are armed with an array of communication tools, dealing effectively with a wide range of stakeholders is difficult. And this is true even for the strongest of leaders.
Getting messages across effectively – for example why the company is investing in the best business VoIP – is a key element of good leadership. Get it wrong, and you risk alienating people or leaving them lacking confidence in your decisions. In this post we’ll examine some common communication pitfalls – along with some practical ways to fix them.
1. Communicating the ‘what’ but not the ‘why’
This is an oft-encountered situation whereby leaders are able to get across ‘what’ needs to be done, but fail to communicate ‘why’ it’s important to the business. As a leader you need to get across why your decisions are aligned with the company’s mission and vision. And why it’s necessary to take these steps now rather than later.
Once it’s ingrained in the company culture to address the ‘why’, people at all levels will be empowered to make better decisions.
2. Talking more than listening
Listening is actually quite a difficult skill to master. Truly listening involves paying attention to what others have to say rather than simply ‘hearing’ the other person speak. It’s listening with the inner – not outer, ear. Good leaders ask pertinent questions then listen intently to the answers.
Leaders often fall into the ‘telling’ rather than ‘sharing’ category which is often fueled by an agenda. Instead of sticking strictly to an agenda you need to come across as a person rather than a figurehead.
Whether you’re talking to top-tier clients or employees, without the ability to listen you won’t gain an understanding of situations or build trust and respect.
Many companies have paid the price for not listening – with leaders who operate in a bubble of group thinkers. Without the ability to boost employee engagement and take onboard others’ ideas, neither you nor the company can grow.
3. Avoiding difficult situations
Another common pitfall when it comes to poor communication is the avoidance of difficult situations. Few leaders have the necessary skills to engage in critical conversations. That’s because, unfortunately, most of us are hard-wired to avoid conflict as we fear a bad reaction.
As a leader, you need to step up and have the courage to tackle tricky personal issues upfront. Team management software, while invaluable, cannot help you in this situation. Having frank conversations with employees can be uncomfortable but they are invaluable and stop bad situations from worsening.
Having that much-needed discussion could make the difference between explaining how someone needs to improve and firing them. Firing people unexpectedly will reduce morale and result in recruitment issues, as valued team members decide to leave.
4. Not communicating enough
Employees often complain that they don’t have enough communication from top management. This sometimes surprises leaders because, in their eyes, they’re constantly communicating with others about issues.
This belief could be down to a disconnect whereby a leader feels that because they’re regularly talking about something, e.g. project management software, that message is being delivered to those that need to hear it.
It’s essential to embrace a structured way of communicating to ensure that everyone who needs to be in the loop gets to hear the necessary information.
5. Using too much technical jargon
Leaders sometimes make the mistake of communicating using too much technical jargon. If, for example, the CEO is communicating to the entire workforce that the company intends to invest in IVR, many in the audience may be asking ‘what is IVR?’. Using technical terms is fine when communicating with the I.T department, but this doesn’t apply when addressing non-technical staff.
Top management are tasked with having to communicate with a wide variety of stakeholders in different departments, with differing areas of expertise. From clients and middle managers to employees on the ‘shop floor’, you need to think how best to address each particular audience.
Poor communication comes with a high price tag and accounts for huge financial losses to businesses every year.
In order to stay competitive in challenging markets you need to embrace change and make continuous improvements in your approach to communication. Just as headless commerce creates a seamless experience for customers, good communication provides a great employee experience.
Effective communication can transform and deepen relationships. Ineffective communication can result in resentment or even anger. Many leaders believe that you can delegate communication to others. This is a mistake. To create an engaged workforce you must be seen listening, learning, and understanding – not just broadcasting your opinions.
Richard Conn is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications and omnichannel contact center solutions.
He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia.