Warren Buffet says by investing in improving your communication skills; you increase your “value by at least 50%”. At the same time, Richard Branson describes communication “as the most important skill a leader can possess.”
Think back to a leader who had an impact on you.
- Was it their voice?
- Their presence?
- The way they made you feel?
- Did they motivate you to act?
- Change your mind about something?
When executed effectively, communication can alleviate stress, engender psychological safety, create followers, and increase consumer confidence, all while positively impacting a company’s bottom line.
Here are five steps to help you cultivate strong communication skills so you can start positively influencing your desired audience.
Step 1 - The self-awareness pause button
It is so important to check in on your state of mind before communicating externally. Our moods are contagious. When stressed, your ability to communicate is impaired. The more stressed you get, the more rigid you become. Your prefrontal cortex that is responsible for agility, emotional regulation, and empathy goes into fight-flight mode, severely hindering your ability to tune into the feelings or emotions of others.
Your inner narrative can influence the message you are about to craft and share externally. By checking in and pausing for a moment, you can hear your inner voice. By taking a breath, you relax your parasympathetic nervous system that is responsible for empathy and connection enabling you to re-centre before communicating externally.
Internal harmony creates external impact.
Step 2 - Declutter your mind by sorting the drawer
Imagine you are in a mad hurry and the drawers in your house are messy. You are desperately searching for that white t-shirt while attempting to dash out the door so you are not late for your meeting. You end up frenetically throwing things around, before spotting the t-shirt. You throw it on quickly, but it’s crumpled.
This is a metaphor for what is happening in your head when your mind is cluttered. Your mind can get to the endpoint, but it gets there in an untidy, messy way, without clarity.
Decluttering your mind can be achieved by going for short walks, deep breathing exercises, talking to a coach or mentor and practicing meditation.
For steps one and two – Remember, you have to have leadership over yourself before you lead people.
Step 3 - Listening
A crucial step that is often neglected when training individuals and teams to become great communicators is listening. And by listening, it is not just being able to superficially repeat one or two words from a conversation or documents. Yes, documents, letters, emails, and websites need to be heard. Subtexts need to be understood.
As many employees return to work after COVID-19, the WHO (World Health Organisation) has suggested that companies survey its employees to check in on how they are going. This is a wonderful idea to implement, no matter how many employees you have, as people need to feel heard and connected with more than ever. Hear their words. But remember, only ask if you are going to act upon what you have listened to, as implementation is a vital step in listening and communicating effectively.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Nelson Mandela
Step 4- Beyond the words
The next step is appreciating that effective communication goes way beyond words. Effective communication is made up of many powerful elements. Words, physical stance, voice, and breath all contribute to how people hear you. They are influential communication touchpoints. They strongly impact how you connect with your audience.
Step 5 - Articulation
Once you are internally integrated, you are ready to externally share and influence your messages in a way that aligns your values and brand. It is in this step where your choice of words are vital. Your language is the final piece of the puzzle that contributes to your brand. The indelible element that impacts people’s psyche. It is how you build trust. The words you use communicate who you are. What you are committed to. Your authenticity.
Your words are your commitment to deliver to the outside world.