By Tom Davidson
The art of leadership is also the art of communication. Whether you’re a new manager or experienced executive, you can never get enough training, practice, feedback or stage time. Here are some tips for artful communication!
Psychologists and human resource professionals have sliced and diced management competencies (i.e., bundles of behaviors) a thousand different ways, arriving at hundreds of different models that can include more than 60 scales and thousands of skills. But which ones are most important? Perhaps the ones most difficult to learn, those having to do with people. Master these, and you will be more than a manager, more than a leader; you’ll be an artful leader. Here are the top three competencies that turn the science of leadership into an A.R.T. form.
• A – CommunicAtion
• R – Relationship
• T – Trust
Great leaders need to be expert communicators, not just in front of large groups but individually, one-on-one and with all kinds of people. If you develop the following three parts of this competency, you’ll be well on your way from being just another manager of things and numbers, to being a sought-after and successful leader of people.
• Ask Powerful Questions – One of the best known – but poorly used – tools at a leader’s disposal are questions. We hardly ever ask enough, and we don’t tend to make them high-quality. Perhaps it was the “20 Questions” game that is making a comeback online that taught us to interrogate other people with yes-no (i.e., “closed” questions). But to make your questions more productive and powerful, keep them open-ended (i.e., “what” and “how”), short and shut up!
• Listen Actively – As psychologist Ben Bissell says, “The best way to influence someone is to listen to them.” Active listening means that you listen far more than you talk, that you understand other people’s words – and underlying meaning – and, most importantly, that you make them feel heard. When people feel heard, they know understand that you respect their opinion and will, in turn, do you the same favor.
• Speak Vividly – Great speakers are memorable because they appeal to the right side of people’s brains. I just met a physician who explained the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol with an unforgettable analogy. He said that one form of cholesterol is like trash, so you want to get rid of that kind while the other kind is like a trash truck because they get the garbage out of your system. The doctor had just boiled down a complex issue in a most memorable and impactful way. To make your messages memorable, learn the artful use of stories, analogies, metaphors and object lessons. Otherwise, you’re just another talking head with PowerPoint slides.
The art of leadership is also the art of communication. Whether you’re a new manager or experienced executive, you can never get enough training, practice, feedback or stage time. Whenever possible, video record yourself in front of audiences with a qualified coach, audio record your half of telephone conversations, and ask mentors to provide detailed feedback.
Do you agree that communication is one of the top three human relation skills for leaders? What other techniques do you recommend for being an artful communicator?