Being a great communicator is often associated with having the ability to speak well, but I think it’s worth looking more deeply into what being a great communicator means and its relationship to leadership.
What is it that we are really talking about when we label someone as a ‘great communicator’? If they spoke articulately, but the people they are talking to are not moved in some way – have they gotten the job done? If they spoke articulately, but they didn’t listen – would we call them a great communicator?
Conversely, if they didn’t say a lot or fumbled through and still people were left inspired, aligned and/or committed to taking action – would we call them a great communicator? If they hardly talked at all but clearly listened and people were left clear that they had been heard and with new openings to take action – would we call them a great communicator?
I think the second set of examples come much closer to what I would call masterful communication. If I am right, then there’s a lot more than speaking to study if you want to be a master communicator.
The word ‘communication’ comes from the root ‘to commune’. It is fundamentally about communing with another, connecting with another. Too often our relationship to communication is more akin to radio. We broadcast, with no concern for how what we are saying is being received. And while we supposedly listen to other people’s broadcasts, we are in fact busy preparing our retort.
So what does all this have to do with leadership?
A leader is someone who creates the future. If you are a leader in your organisation you are being paid well and you are certainly not being paid to do ‘business as usual’. What you are paid the big bucks for is bringing creativity, innovation, smart thinking and new directions that are going to benefit the company, its shareholders, stakeholders, customers and employees.
You can have all the great ideas in the world, but if you can’t connect with people through communication and have them get on board with those ideas then you are sunk.
To become a master communicator you need to study how you listen. What is happening in your thinking when others are speaking? Are you really listening or are you waiting for your turn to speak? Are you interested in their point of view or do you already know what they are going to say or what needs to happen?
If you pay close attention to how you listen what you will discover is that a lot of your attention is on you, not on the other person. Whilst your attention is on you, there will be no real connecting with others and when people can’t connect with you, they can’t connect fully with your ideas or initiatives.