Why is it that when some people speak, people not only listen with rapt attention, but seem predisposed to respond favourably to whatever they have to say? And yet others struggle to gain the same level of attention or to win support for their initiatives.
What is it that gives some people an almost inexplicable edge when it comes to painting a compelling vision, selling an idea or strategy or even just collaborating with a colleague or stakeholder? And how can you emulate their success?
As a technology leader or aspiring leader, you know that how you communicate is important, and you’ve probably spent countless hours preparing for important presentations or meetings, only to have your efforts meet with a lukewarm reception.
Or perhaps you’ve had challenges in interacting with team members or peers. You’ve engaged with the best of intentions, but have had your comments misconstrued or misinterpreted, leading to unwanted friction or even conflict.
Furthermore, your frustrated efforts to motivate and influence others are hindering your ability to drive outcomes and establish yourself as an effective leader.
We’ve all been in meetings where technical experts have been so enamoured of their solution that they went down a rabbit hole expounding the merits of various features without realising that several peoples’ eyes were glazing over as the audience was left far behind. This is not effective communication.
So what is the answer? What makes some people more successful communicators than others? After all, when it comes to business, we’re all speaking the same language and you do know how to communicate, right? So what are you missing? In this article, I explore ways that you can elevate your communication and thus enhance your impact and effectiveness as a leader.
I recently coached Michael, a CIO who was committed to being an effective leader and an influential communicator. But when it came to explaining his agenda to his peers, he struggled to gain their support for his ideas and often left meetings feeling frustrated and depleted. Perhaps you can relate.
The reality is that effective communication is more than just the words you say or how you interact in the moment. Communication begins with relationship. The depth of trust and rapport you have with another person will largely determine how open they are to being influenced by you.
In the Being Profile®, which is the leadership assessment I use with my coaching clients, we measure several aspects of being which contribute to effective communication, including Authenticity, Vulnerability, Awareness and Presence.
Authenticity is being consistent with who you say you are for others and for who you say you are for yourself. It is when your actions and behaviours are consistent with your words, which builds trust and rapport, encouraging others to rely on you and increasing their willingness to be influenced by you. This cannot be a manipulation, because it arises out of you authentically sharing who you are and what you think, which leads to genuine connection and relationship.
Closely aligned with Authenticity, and essential to its full expression, is the mood of Vulnerability.
Vulnerability is the quality of being with your authentic self without obsessive concern over how you are perceived by others. As a result, it is the pathway to generating trust and building powerful relationships. A healthy relationship with vulnerability means you are open, truthful and willing to express yourself authentically, regardless of what others think of you. You acknowledge and embrace your imperfections to support your growth and influence. When you’re vulnerable and willing to expose your flaws or ask for help, others will find you more approachable and are more likely to trust your motives.
Awareness is your access to reality. It enables you to understand your impact on others and how your communication is landing so you can tailor it accordingly. Today’s technology leaders need to be able to adapt their communication style, language, modality and approach for their audience, whether that be your team members, peers, manager, client, supplier or Board member. You must be able to translate complex technical concepts into clear business language and communicate the benefits of different approaches, as well as the risks that need to be understood and managed. Your willingness to adapt your style and approach not only demonstrates respect for your audience, but by considering where your audience comes from, their background, level of expertise and interest you can adjust your delivery and style of engagement to maximise your impact.
Presence is your ability to intentionally bring your awareness to what is happening around you, and to be connected to and in communication with others. When you are fully present, others experience you as being open and available to interact and collaborate, which allows full communication and mutual understanding to take place. Presence is also about bringing all of me to the interaction – fully self-expressed and authentic – in order to maximise my influence and the impact that I can have as a leader. It relies on my relationship with awareness by allowing me to monitor and measure the impact of my communication so that I can respond and clarify where needed to optimise the impact.
When I am authentically present with others, I will not only build healthy professional relationships (both personal and professional), but I will recognise where I need to invest additional time and effort to lay the groundwork for important meetings or conversations to ensure that full communication can occur.
And what about Michael?
Well through the coaching process, he came to appreciate the importance of being more vulnerable and authentic, and taking time to better understand his peers and their perspectives. He polished his relationship with awareness and presence, monitoring his impact and adapting his style and approach for others’ needs.
He worked hard outside meetings to build closer, more collaborative relationships with his peers, actively seeking their input on key initiatives and issues before he presented them to the group. And he learned to use stories and metaphors to take other people on the journey of how and why he made decisions.
Today, Michael is a much more effective communicator, enjoys greater influence with his peers, stakeholders and team members, and is now looked to as a trusted thought leader on all issues relating to technology.