There are three types of communication – oral, written, and nonverbal. Oral conversation includes direct conversation between two individuals or among several people, such as face-to-face discussion, meetings, telephone conversations, presentations, lectures, and symposium. Oral communication, unless in the form of a lecture or a presentation, is typically informal, with a high degree of interpersonal involvement, and is best for establishing relationships, building trust, motivating, solving problems, and addressing complicated issues. Oral communication is not as structured as written communication and misunderstandings can occur if the listener takes things out of context or is inattentive, which is why active listening is so important.
Written communication is any medium that uses the written word. Letters, proposals, contracts, and e-mails are example of written communication and are most prevalent in business. It should be noted that that any information posted on websites and social media is also considered written communication, so be careful what you post and what you send since this is your electronic or digital footprint. The majority of written communication today is through electronic means. The advantages are speed, reduced cost, and the ability to reach a broad audience. The disadvantages include lack of confidentiality, improperly using electronic means to address sensitive issues, and irrecoverable immediacy, so think things through before you hit the send button.
The third type of communication which is often overlooked is the predominant means of communication, encompassing more than 50 per cent of your total communication – nonverbal communication. It is an important part of the communication process, yet many fail to understand the importance or are unaware of their nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication includes body language, facial expressions, eye contact, voice inflection, mannerisms, and dress. Much of your success will depend on nonverbal communication as people size you up and continually assess you.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Shaw
The ability to communicate is one of the most critical skills for someone to be successful in the business world, or anything else for that matter, including a relationship or marriage. The most effective leaders in the business or political world all have one trait in common – they are excellent communicators who have the ability to effectively convey their message, articulate the key points, and provide inspiration.
In many instances people do not give adequate thought or preparation to what they are saying and how they will most effectively convey it to the intended audience. Their remarks and delivery will reflect this lack of preparation. It will fall on deaf ears and not be received in the manner they had hoped. There have likely been times when you have seen two people propose basically the same thing, with one receiving support and positive acknowledgement, and the other not. What was the difference? The difference was not the message; the difference was the messenger and the conveyance of the message.
Good communication is not just desirable, it is necessary for someone to be successful. This is amplified further due to the nature of the workforce and the workflow today. Much of the work involves a group of individuals who are formed into a team to collaborate on a project. The members of the team could be a cross section of individuals encompassing different disciplines, from different parts of the country, or even from another country.
Another factor is the social changes which have occurred and the multitude of venues for communication and information available, with the changes being almost exponential in nature. As a result, people’s attention spans have shortened, not lengthened. Consequently, when communicating, keep your audience and the venue in mind, ensuring your messaging is clear, concise, to the point, and quickly discerned.
1. Mismatch – Prior to stepping into a leadership role, both the organization and the individual should conduct a candid assessment as to the individual’s capacity for leadership.
2. Confusing Positional Authority with Personal Authority – Someone who relies on position or title to wield influence and give orders but lacks the necessary leadership traits will lose respect of the team, and performance will suffer.
3. Improper Delegation – A good balance needs to be struck to avoid micro-managing, while at the same time not being too hands off.
4. Not Listening – A leader needs to be accessible, with open channels of communication. A leader should spend more time listening than speaking.
5. Lack of Definition – The leader should make it clear what the goals are and what success looks like.
6. Lack of Development – An effective leader is focused not only on the mission but also on people. The leader makes it a priority to improve the skill sets and competency of the team by providing coaching and guidance.
7. Not Being Proactive – Planning ahead and anticipating versus waiting and reacting will result in less disruption and turmoil.
8. Avoiding Conflict – Avoidance is not a good strategy, since typically issues being avoided don’t go away. They fester and resurface later, often resulting in a minor issue becoming a major problem.
9. Confusing Friendship with Business – A leader should strike the right balance. If the pendulum swings too much in one direction, it could jeopardize the objectivity of the leader when faced with tough decisions.
10. Not Setting an Example – Leadership is by example. A leader is not held to a different standard, but to a higher standard, not living by one set of rules while expecting others to abide by a different set.
Leadership is a hot topic. Go to any bookstore, podcast, or business-related platform and this topic is prominently featured. Leadership is both an art and a science, often times begging the question of whether leaders or born or made? The answer is simple, but the journey is complex as leadership is a more of a developed skill than something you are born with. If it was simply something you were born with, any further discussion of this subject would be pointless, although some people are born with traits or characteristics that predispose them to become leaders.
One of the best training grounds for leadership is the military. Leading a military unit is a complicated and rigorous process, with a range of tools needed to be effective, and the need to adapt, sometime very quickly, as events unfold. The experience and training you receive in the military is transferable to other sectors, and many of our former Presidents and great leaders had the origins of their leadership in the military. This does not by any means imply that someone who does not have military experience cannot be an effective leader. I am simply pointing out that the military embodies the very ideals and practices that are effective in other arenas as you are leading a diverse group of people in a cohesive and effective manner to accomplish a specific mission, which in essence is what one does in the business environment.
Leaders can be grouped into two categories, transactional leaders and transformational leaders. The transactional leader is more focused on the day to day business to ensure things are done properly and effectively. The transformational leader devotes more time to establishing a vision and generating initiatives which support this vision. There is a need for both.
There are also various leadership styles, with each one having its merits and drawbacks. There is no one size fits all. A good leader must be able to recognize which style is best as different circumstances require different approaches. Moreover, the leader must also understand which styles work best for him or her given their personality and skill set.
If you are interested in developing your leadership skills it is eminently doable as long as you are open-minded, listen, accept feedback, and continually look on ways to improve. However, remember “if serving is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you”.