We all know communication is critical to success in life, but also in business. Most of the work we do requires collaborating and coordinating with others, and one’s ability to communicate effectively with peers, subordinates, clients and customers is tremendously important. If done well, you could say it is the ultimate superpower.
How confident are you in how you communicate with others? Are you aware of your presence and impact?
Regardless if you are a middle manager, graduate or owner of a business, ultimately, everyone wants to be truly heard. To appear credible, competent and confident. In most circumstances, you will want to educate, influence or inspire a call to action. Leave an indelible impression with an individual or group, and sometimes simply ensure your audience will do what you want them to do. Simple, right?
If you watch any of former US President Barack Obama’s speeches you will observe his eloquent style, unassailable charisma, and presence. The highly regarded chap has an almost evangelistic communicative style that can mesmerise his audience. This didn’t come naturally…. that’s a fact. Obama received months of extensive training, breaking down and perfecting body language (stance, posture, hand gestures etc) and his mode of diction, enunciation and paralinguistics. Content is important, yes, but delivery is everything.
Let’s look at how to ensure we maximise the impact of how we communicate, specifically in the workplace and in meetings.
1. When you have the floor, think about the proportion of statements to questions. Stanford Business lecturer Robert Siegel believes if you speak for longer than 7-8 minutes without a question, joke, call to action or a different speaker, it can potentially be too long and you could lose your audience.
2. Silence is not always golden. Sure, you want to actively listen and truly digest what your manager or CEO is saying, however, be mindful that your comment or question could add startling value.
Your comment or question may inspire others to speak up, ignite alternate paths of thought and rather critically, it will demonstrate your commitment and respect to your team, and superiors.
3. Ask yourself, do all participants feel psychologically safe and encouraged to speak up? Those on the sidelines who don’t always participate can often offer the most profound insight or suggestions. Check in to see if everyone feels comfortable to collaborate.
4. In the menagerie of Zoom, Ms Teams and online meeting platforms consider going audio only on occasion, even if only for a short period of time in the meeting. Why? It has been proven that looking at others, (as well as seeing ourselves) can be quite cognitively and emotionally enervating. There are also thinner cues to read. You might consider starting the meeting 100% visual to initiate the genuine connection and introduction but then switch to audio only especially if you are using a slide or reference material.
5. As a leader consider the notion Be confident, but not really sure. Express confidence about what they feel to be true right now, and inspire us all to action while at the same time acknowledge to themselves and others that they don’t know everything and are always open to new input. Especially during Covid, we are in a changing situation. We don’t really know what’s going to happen in the world, but let’s do the best we can and move forward.
No one wants a leader who’s insecure about everything but also not one who has strong opinions, strongly held and won’t update no matter what. Confidence with humility and being open.
6. Listen, be attentive, empathetic and thankful to the speaker. Lean in, ask a question, seek to understand, and always display respect.