Of all the core skills required to be a successful business leader, clear communication is by far one of the most essential. Business owners communicate with a wide range of people on a daily basis, including employees, customers and vendors. Keeping your messaging clear, simple and consistent goes a long way towards making sure that your words resonate with your audience.
Clear communication comes from how you approach your work and the people around you. The more you prepare and inform your employees, the easier it is for them to understand your instructions and act on them. By establishing a base of expectations, your ideas, instructions and advice will all be understood more clearly and you’ll get better results. To be effective, you must know your business well and understand what it takes for your employees to get things accomplished.
The fundamentals behind being clear in your communications are all based on common sense, but to effectively incorporate them into your daily routine, they require a deliberate effort and lots of practice. The following tips to help you understand the principles of clarity. Apply these to all your business communications.
Break through the clutter
Most business owners have a lot of information they need to convey on a daily basis. As such, it’s important that you place the greatest focus on the most essential items. If you try to pass along too much information, your core message can get lost in the clutter. Keeping things simple will improve the quality of your communication and will help avoid misunderstandings.
If you find your instructions are not being understood correctly or aren’t being successfully carried out by your employees, try simplifying them. It may be helpful to try condensing your message down so that it fits on a three-by- five index card. This may seem limiting at first, but if you don’t make an effort to keep things simple, you may find yourself over complicating your instructions to others. By drilling your message down to a few short notes, you can better explain your intentions.
Have empathy for those you communicate with
Try to see things from the perspectives of those you’re communicating with. Do you understand them, their wants and their needs? When someone knows that you understand them, the bond of communication strengthens. Most problems are caused directly or indirectly by misunderstandings, and adding empathy to the equation goes a long way to avoiding these issues. Remember that even the best employees may not fully know what your expectations are — especially when it comes to carrying out instructions. Empathizing with them will make them feel more comfortable when asking questions.
Be confident and assertive
People look to leaders to set the tone in a conversation. As such, it’s important to consider the manner in which you’re delivering your message. If you’re saying one thing and your tone and/or body language is saying another, people will get conflicting messages. Clarity means delivering a consistent message and leaving little room for interpretation.
When delivering instructions, the confidence you exude is very important. Indecisiveness—or the appearance of uncertainty—leads to confusion. Confidence is the mark of a true leader.
Harness the power of storytelling
Stories have been used throughout history to help illustrate complex messages in a simplified and comprehensible format. By conveying your message in the form of a story—especially one that reinforces your instructions and helps add clarity to your expectations—your communication will really sink in and resonate with your audience.
But beyond being entertaining, stories can also be informative. Use stories to provide examples and to illustrate the message you’re trying to deliver. Using a story helps make your communication more memorable and works to drive your message home with your audience.
Listening is one of the most powerful tools in your communications toolbox. Face-to-face and phone conversations are the best ways to really listen and connect, so these methods are preferable to email whenever possible. Even the simple step of asking someone to repeat or rephrase what you just said can ensure that you’re both in total agreement. Asking follow-up questions is a good way to make sure that any instructions you provided were properly understood. This is also a good way to find out if there are any potential problems or issues that may prove problematic when an employee is trying to execute your instructions.
In this fast-paced world of too much information, there tends to be an excessive emphasis on being brief instead of being clear. Business leaders who take the time to focus on quality communication skills will not only be more effective in their day-to-day activities, but will also set an example for others to follow.
There is an old, but very effective saying: “By the inch it’s a synch, by the yard it is hard.” When you use clear communication skills to break things down into simple ideas for others to easily understand, the big things tend to take care of themselves.
Following these simple principles can have a dramatic impact on the results you’re looking to achieve for your business. Make a consistent effort to impart clarity in all your conversations.