Legendary studio chief Samuel Goldwyn famously told his filmmakers, “If you’ve got a message, send a telegram.” He wanted his movies to entertain, not educate. They got the picture or they went to work for somebody else.
Today’s leaders have to think more expansively than that. We need to not only educate and entertain, but also to inspire. But how do we know if the message we’re sending is the message that others are receiving? How can we confirm if anyone is even listening?
Check out the following communication killers to see where your message could be going off the rails:
All talk but no action. If you’re not practicing what you’re preaching – whether that’s respect, engagement, or collaboration – no one is likely to pay you serious attention. Remember, if you’re a leader, or even an aspiring leader, you’re a role model for others even when you think no one’s watching.
One and done approach. Effective leaders know that if something is important, they’ve got to say it more than once. We live in an extremely complex world with lots of moving parts and it’s not easy to get and hold people’s attention. So if your message is worth imparting, it’s worth repeating.
You lack world-class listening skills. The best communicators are often also the best listeners. They have a special way of making you feel, if just for a moment, that you’re the only one that matters. Show respect for others by turning off your devices, making eye contact, and plugging in to their concerns and ideas. They’re much more likely to give you the same courtesy in return.
One-size-fits-all style. People listen and learn in many different ways, so you can’t use just one communication style and assume that everyone will get it. Use different modes and means, such as email, small group discussions, all-hands talks, even good old-fashioned one-on-one conversation to ensure your message is received. Factor in cultural influences, level of expertise, and even personality styles to further customize your message.
You’re not managing your emotions. Great communicators know when and how to use their emotions effectively. Don’t just be clear and concise when engaging with others, be real. Show people who you are outside the office, whether that’s a devoted parent, an ace athlete, or a proud volunteer. Just don’t go overboard. No one wants you to wear your emotions on your sleeve 24/7.