By: Steve Olenski
Whether you’re the CEO, or a teenage entrepreneur just starting out, communication skills are vitally important. Great leaders motivate, encourage and inspire. They also train people, share new ideas and negotiate. These activities have one thing in common: They all require excellent communication.
Here are five communication skills that make good leaders great:
- Interpreting Body Language
In his book, Introducing Body Language – A Practical guide, Glenn Wilson writes: “Where body language conflicts with the words that are being said, the body language will usually be the more ‘truthful’ in the sense of revealing true feelings.” That’s why the most successful leaders are always paying attention to people’s unseen language and nonverbal cues. When you’re able to read thoughts and sentiments that aren’t revealed by a person’s words, you have many clear advantages. Take interviewing, for example. By learning non-verbal signs, you can oftentimes determine how honest a candidate is being with you. You can also tell if someone is comfortable with what you’re saying, and whether the person feels confident in what they are saying to you. Reading body language also gives you an advantage during negotiations, selling, delivering presentations and speeches, and conducting meetings. Also, when you know how to read body language, you’ll be able to master the art and science of projecting effective body language to those around you. Exuding honesty, confidence and leadership is just as important as being able to read these traits in others.
- Video Skills
As a leader in today’s visual-centric world having skills when it comes to video is paramount. No, I don’t mean shooting cat videos, not that there’s anything wrong with that. What I am referring to is how you present yourself in video form and the quality of the video itself. As for the quality or production of the video, a lot will depend on the size of the company or brand you’re working for. If you’re the CMO or leader at a big company you more than likely have access to either an in-house agency or external agency to handle your video needs. Or if you’re a CMO at a smaller company or entrepreneur you may want to look at using companies such as Fiverr, Freelancer.com or GigBucks for a quality freelancer. The production quality of a video is just as important as the words you use.
- Listening carefully
In our modern, global society, the skill of listening has taken a back seat. Voice inflections, verbal pauses and eye contact have been replaced with texts, thumbs-up icons and emoticons. While electronic communications make long-distance interaction easier than ever before, it has unfortunately hindered our ability to really listen during an information-rich conversation. This is unfortunate, because skillful listening enables you to catch details that others miss. Many epiphanies and business solutions have been reached thanks to a good listener’s ability to pick up on a hidden gem. One excellent way to immediately improve your listening ability is to practice empathetic listening. Try to feel excited when the person you’re listening to is excited, or concern when the other person is concerned. Reflect the other person’s emotions not only verbally, but also with your facial expressions. It isn’t always easy, and it takes a bit of energy, but it will help you tune in to the thoughts and emotions of anybody you’re having a conversation with.
- Crystal Clear Verbal Communication
As a general rule, people do not listen attentively. Therefore, it’s your job as a leader to speak as clearly and effectively as possible. So don’t use words that aren’t understood by most people. Not only will your message be lost, but you’ll run the risk of sounding arrogant. Remember, the goal of communication is clarity.
Also, prepare your conversations in advance. There’s no rule that says a conversation needs to be purely improvised. When you know you are going to have an important discussion, take as much time as needed to plan your words and sentences. Think about objections people may have toward your opinions or solutions, and prepare convincing answers to the objections. Preparation always pays off.
Another way many people improve their verbal communication skills is to read more often. Whether it’s your favorite business journal, a well-authored blog, or even a sci-fi novel, reading from articulate authors greatly helps your verbal communications.
Lastly, spend some time watching speeches, debates, or presentations on YouTube. When you listen to people of inspiration speak convincingly to an audience, you’ll quickly discover that your own verbal skills improve.
- Writing skills
It’s true that smart executives and entrepreneurs can use agencies or hire freelancers who specialize in the complete production process of video & animation for fairly routine projects like speeches and presentations. However, it’s still very important that you’re able to write well on a day-to-day basis. After all, you certainly can’t hire someone every time you need to write a convincing email. Well you probably could but it wouldn’t be very cost effective.
You don’t have to dig through your attic and dust off your old English Grammar textbooks. You do, however, need to be concise and direct when you write. One way to write better is to remove unneeded words. Excellent writers say a lot with as few words as possible. Great communicators are made not born.
If you lack any or all of these skills, don’t be discouraged. Spend a little bit of time each day learning, reading, and practicing essential communication techniques. It may seem difficult to become an excellent communicator, but with practice, you’ll soon discover that you can do it. And who knows? You might even discover that you’re a natural.