As leaders (whether intentionally or unintentionally) we are constantly sending signals/messages. The words we use, the communication channels we engage in, the tone of our messages, the timing of our signals, and our body language say a lot. And (whether you realize it or not) others act on those assumptions they read into our signals. The less intentional and clear we are the more room there is for misinterpretation. We should be proactive and strategic in what we want to “say” – and how we say it.
Our signals must be consistent with our persona, our brand, and of course our personal style. When we step outside these, the dissonance can be a shock (in a positive or negative way). So I thought it would be helpful to share some ways you can start wrapping your arms around the signals you send – and start being more proactive and deliberate n how and what you communicate.
Be a Planner
It’s hard to be intentional about anything if you don’t already know what you want to be intentional about. Shocking, right? Be a planner – a marketing communications planner. Think in advance about your brand, your marketing messages, and when and how those messages will be delivered. Knowing in advance what you’re trying to accomplish will make a lot of difference. It will allow you to get out ahead of what you’re trying to communicate so you can think about it and be in control of the signals and messages you’re sending.
Action: Develop and implement a marketing and personal communications plan.
Ask for Feedback
Nothing’s better than actually asking others. Ask people you trust to honestly describe your communication style, the appropriateness of the information you share, the timeliness of what you share, the media or platforms you use, what you could do to make improvements, etc. If there are significant issues such as a merger, product release, a reorganization, etc., ask about them. How well did you communicate details, status, clarity, form/method, timeliness. etc. And, again, how can that have been improved?
Action: Over the next thirty days, ask 5 people for input on your communications.
Up Your Skills
Lets face it. When it comes to the how part of communicating we can ALL improve our skills. The good news is that there are plenty of resources available that can help us improve. There are courses that focus on communication skills for business leaders or one that zeroes in on areas where you feel you need specific improvement – public speaking, thought organization, written skills, digital/graphics/infographics, etc. There are executive coaches that can help.
Action: Find a course or a coach and begin.
Learn the Subliminal
One often-overlooked aspect of communications is the impact that unspoken (or unwritten) communications can have. Our body language and our facial expressions affect how people hear and understand our thinking and our messages. It can impact the extent to which they hear us AT ALL. It’s been estimated that (although the actual number seems to vary a lot) at least more than half of our communication is nonverbal. Regardless of the actual scientifically-research-based number, our own experience tells us that it’s a lot. Enough to know that it does make a difference. So we should spend some time learning about it.
And you should know that it’s not just one-sided. It’s not just the way the person who is communicating signals their meaning, but by reading the audience’s nonverbal cues we can tell if they are hearing us or understanding us. Both sides of the equation are critical.
Action: Find a resource and learn more about nonverbal communications. Make at least one change in your habits this month.
Find Someone to Emulate
Don’t underestimate the value of copying. Is there someone you think does a great job at communicating intentions, sharing information, meanings, and /or building trust with audiences? Maybe it’s a public figure. Maybe it’s someone you know personally. Try to pinpoint those things they do that helps them stand out. Is it the words they use? Is their “stage-presence”? Is it hand gestures? Also look at what they avoid. Do they speak clearly and without “ummms”. Do they avoid slang, curse-words, etc.? Do they make eye-contact? Study their facial expressions. Do they match their content? Study them as much as you can. Apply what you learn to your own style. Make it your own.
Action: Identify one person you would like to emulate. Study their habits – and list three ways you can improve your communication style by mirroring some of what you learn from them
The art of communication is a mix of art/style, creativity, and planning. Knowing what you want to communicate, when and how you want to communicate it, and the different nuances of how to deliver a message that resonates makes a huge difference. As a leader it’s critical that you master this skill. You are the business’s leading spokesperson. You are it’s biggest advocate. You are in a unique position to make a difference in how your company is viewed. Don’t shy away from it. Don’t let it “just happen”. Be intentional. Be proactive. How well you communicate can really improve your business’s prospects. Embrace it!
I know how important communications can be to the leader of a small business. I would love to help you make a stronger impact with your communications Together we can infuse a solid, well-planned communications strategy into your business. If you think I can help your organization, feel free to reach out and get in touch. I’d love to chat with you and explore whether I can help. No pressure. Just an informal discussion to explore the idea a little. You can reach me at (713) 907-8429 or email me at BCohen@IDiscoverConsulting.com.
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