Trainer's Tips: Communicate Like a Leader

Posted by: Daniela Devitt, Director, Training & Workforce Development for CEA on Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Daniela Devitt

Effective leadership requires excellent communication skills. As a leader in my organization and as a trainer, I find that I need to continually work on active listening before I choose the words to convey my message so that it has the intended impact.

According to an article in Inc. magazine, communication is particularly crucial to improving your company’s culture. Fortunately, there are several ways you can immediately improve your communication.

Understand that leadership language is different

Leadership language serves a specific purpose that is different from the language used in a non-leadership role. Your communication is responsible for providing meaning about the present and the future, demonstrating resolve in the face of adversity, and articulating matters others do not see. It includes calling on the organization to uphold commitments and standards while infusing purpose and inspiration. This does not happen with bland, casual, or vague language.

Before your next leadership event, think carefully about the words you choose. Be specific, concrete, and evocative. Rehearse out loud with people you trust, how did it sound to them? Leadership language, by its very nature, must be heightened and bold. You must be comfortable with these requirements.

Know what you want

Too many leaders don’t know what to say because they don’t know what they want. Before speaking (formally or informally) ask yourself, “What’s going on here, and what do I want?”

If the answer is grounded in the organization’s shared purpose and not your personal desires, you have a better opportunity to speak to these broader needs and goals. If you don’t know what you want (or worse, want to pursue self-centered goals), you should remain silent until you are prepared to articulate the wider view of the organization.

Use “but” very carefully

“But” is a contradictory conjunction, and should not be used after a positive phrase if your intention is to be positive. Often, “but” signals that whatever came before is not wholly valid. The common statement, “I liked your project, but…,” questions the sincerity of what was “liked” and emphasizes what the speaker wants to change.

When a leader says, “Thanks for the feedback, but I think…” it often comes across as, “I don’t appreciate what you said, and we will do it my way.” Better to say, “I’ve considered your feedback and still believe in my decision.”

Go easy with the superlatives

When too much is described as “amazing,” “awesome,” “epic,” or “incredible,” it doesn’t seem believable. Overused superlatives wash out true meaning. When a leader routinely declares commonplace events to be extraordinary, he or she contributes to a pattern of making everything sound the same. Instead of making rote declarations, explain the action and reaction in simple language.

Don’t pull back

Leaders sometimes “pull back” by qualifying their speech, “It’s sort of up to this team,” or “This is kind of a tough situation.” Resist the temptation of this lazy language. Using clear language will increase your courage by more fully connecting you to what you need and want to say.

For a refresher on improving your communication skills attend CEA’s Symposium on “How to Communicate like a Leader.”

Source: Inc. Article June 2015 “Talk Like a Leader”






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