Leadership success and effective communication go hand in hand. You cannot separate leadership and communication. The better your leadership communication skills, the better your overall leadership. As Kin Tindell, co-founder and former CEO of The Container Store, said, “One of our foundation principles is that leadership and communication are the same thing. Communication is leadership.”
One place that a leader’s communication skills are on full display is during meetings. That’s why we’ve compiled some of our best leadership communication tips to level up your next check-in, team, or staff meeting.
Prioritize Attentive Listening
When you’re leading the discussion, it can be hard to be present and actively listen as your mind is jumping ahead to how you’ll respond or the following item to address on the agenda.
Yet, a study of top-performing sales reps showed how essential attentive listening is during meetings. The study showed that during meetings led by top-performing sales reps, their talk-to-listen ratio was 43:57. That is, they listened much more than they talked. No matter if it is a sales meeting, team meeting, or catch-up meeting, individuals want to be heard and for you to understand what they’re saying before you jump to a solution or give your opinion.
A recent Forbes article shared four ways to become a better attentive listener:
- Listen to understand, not respond
Instead of thinking about how you want to respond while someone else is speaking, try changing your mindset that you’re listening to understand.
- Remove distractions and focus on listening
Put your phone down, turn away from your computer screen, look them in the eye and really listen to what they’re saying.
- Ask questions and seek clarification
Asking questions to seek clarity and test your understanding demonstrates you’re actively listening and engaged in the conversation.
- Summarize what the other person said in your own words
Before you respond, repeat your understanding of what the other person said to ensure you have the message correct. Make this a common practice, as it will ensure you're attentively listening to the other person if you know you’ll have to repeat back what they’ve just said.
reframe How You Ask For Questions
For a fruitful two-way conversation in a meeting, the leader must pose open-ended questions that encourage feedback and further discussion. One trick is to instead of asking “Do you have any questions?” which is an easy out for people to say no, reframe the question to be “What questions do you have?”
By posing this common question in a different way that solicits a response, you’ve opened up the conversation for a two-way dialogue. In addition, you get instant feedback if the individual has both received and understood your message.
Follow a One-on-One Meeting Template
One leadership communication skill central to effective leadership is conducting one-on-one meetings with employees. To ensure the time is valuable and a two-way conversation, try implementing the 10:10:10 template for 30-minute meetings. It will give your meetings structure and a leadership communication playbook for you to follow.
- First 10 Minutes: Rapport - This time is dedicated to building relationships and trust. Ask them questions about their life and share about your own. Be authentic and genuinely curious about them.
- Second 10 Minutes: Review - During the following ten minutes, discuss project status, team performance, numbers, and accountabilities. In addition, use this time to share any updates you have from the company or department.
- Last 10 Minutes: Readiness - Use the last ten minutes of the one-on-one meeting for development. Review their professional goals and development plan, discuss what they want to get better at and how it will help them achieve their goals, and ask how you can help them.
Use Storytelling To Connect
Jennifer Aaker, a marketing professor from Stanford University, found that only 5% of students remembered a statistic, but 63% could recall a story. She explains, “Research shows our brains are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Our brains are wired to understand and retain stories."
When done well, using storytelling during a meeting allows you to paint a picture with your words so what you say resonates, engages, and sticks with your audience. The key is to craft your story against your audience and your goal of the message. Try adding a story the next time you want to persuade or inspire your audience.
Being a great storyteller can significantly improve your leadership communication skills, and the good news is that anyone can learn with practice. We believe storytelling is a skill for the future of work that leaders and team members alike can benefit from. That’s why it is one of the foundational modules in Niagara Institute’s Future Skills program.
Close With a Call to Action
If leaders want people to act, they need to be explicit on expectations, actions, and accountabilities during a meeting. Bart Egnal, author of Leading Through Language says, “Because leadership is the ability to inspire others to act, you must indicate how your ideas should be turned into action.”
In his book, he states that for a call to action to be effective, it must be measurable, time-bound, use an active voice and be clear. Here is an example he gives of a weak and a strong call to action.
- Weak: “I need you to write your 2022 professional goals and corresponding development plan.”
- Strong: “I need you to write your 2022 professional goals and development plan and provide it to me at our next check-in meeting, scheduled in two weeks. We will use our time together during that meeting to review it.”
Conclusion: Improve Your leadership communication skills with Niagara institute
Having exceptional leadership communication skills isn't something you can master overnight. Still, with knowledge from this article or a training program like Speaking as Leader, you can begin to increase your confidence in delivering your message across a wide variety of audiences.
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