Communication is the oxygen of the workplace ecosystem. When it’s present in its purest form, everything flourishes and grows. In its absence, products fail, team members run for the hills, and brands suffocate. No matter how great you are at closing deals, finding your target customer, or attracting top-notch team members, if you’re unable to communicate your vision, you may as well be treading water.
In my experience, these are the top four strategies to establish better communication in the workplace.
1. Show Empathy
Empathy is the key to good communication and should have a place in every effective leader’s toolkit, but it’s not always given the attention it deserves. Although you will usually find empathy listed as a “soft skill,” it’s one of the toughest and most crucial things to apply in leadership. If you get it right, you can build a culture of innovation, engagement, retention, inclusivity, and work-life balance.
There are two ways to demonstrate empathy as a leader:
- Cognitive empathy: Consider how others may be thinking.
- Emotional empathy: Consider how others may be feeling.
To apply this to communication, don’t stop at mere consideration. You need to confirm your assumptions by asking your employees what they’re thinking or feeling and listening to their answers with the intent of understanding.
2. Have Awareness
The second key strategy for improving communication is remaining aware of your surroundings at all times. My background in aviation has taught me the importance of this skill. Awareness makes the difference between a smooth flight and a not-so-smooth flight. Whether you are piloting an aircraft or guiding a start-up to Fortune 500 success, awareness is vital.
Having awareness means being conscious of how your team is doing. By paying attention to incremental shifts in energy, you can head off challenges before they turn into serious issues. Even when the skies are clear, you should maintain a watchful eye.
Practicing awareness to enhance communication may require active motivation. Every day, I consciously make the decision to get up from my desk, walk through the hallways of my business, and chat with employees along the way. To ramp up your awareness levels, don’t just talk to higher-level team members. Necessary insights can be drawn from conversations with team members on all levels, from office cleaners to your top managers.
You will be amazed at the improvement in communication that comes from a daily two-minute check-in with your team. When they see you initiating communication and remaining aware, they will feel more comfortable reciprocating. It’s also an excellent opportunity to stretch your legs!
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3. Be Passionate
Passion comes in many different forms. It can be specifically directed toward a cause, product, or service, but it can also be general enthusiasm around the workplace. When the team members you are leading really feel your passion, they are far more likely to get on board with your vision.
In practice, passion is communicated through both words and actions. Take time to set up engagement sessions with your team so you can communicate your excitement and commitment. Use language that inspires. Then, demonstrate your passion by putting in the hard work, even when the chips are down. That is passion in practice.
4. Demonstrate Character and Integrity
Although these are technically two attributes, they are inextricably linked. Character is the sum of your moral and ethical code, while integrity is how closely you live according to that code — even when no one else is looking. Good communication is built on a code of conduct. When you are leading a team, there should be no difference between your code of conduct and theirs.
Character and integrity are best communicated by matching what you say with what you do. This is not a destination to achieve but rather an ongoing process of measuring your actions against the yardstick of your code.
To ensure your communication is driven by character and integrity, it is essential that you hire according to this code. Typically, these two traits can’t be taught — they are either integral to a person or they aren’t. Make a point to determine this before recruiting.
Putting It Into Practice
Putting these strategies into practice can be a bit of a juggling act, but it is entirely possible to achieve. Self-awareness is critical. Take the time to understand your built-in leadership style. Figure out where you excel in these four strategic areas and where you might need to do some work.
Even after 20 years of putting these strategies into practice, I still have to work on myself every day. It’s an endless journey, but the more you focus on these aspects, the easier it becomes to recognize whether you are meeting your set standard or falling short.
Remember that, as a leader, there are eyes on you constantly. Your energy, facial expressions, tone, words, and actions will directly influence your team and, in turn, the standard of communication in your organization. Keep putting in the work, remain humble and self-aware, and watch how your business blossoms.