It’s Time to Put Down the GIFs and Emojis – How to Effectively Communicate as a Leader

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What do Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi and Taylor Swift all have in common? They’re all leaders in their fields who have nailed the art of communication.

While you might not be singing to 10,000 screaming fans every night, knowing how to communicate well is the key to creating a team that can work and thrive together.

With the continued rise of social media and instant messaging platforms like Slack or WhatsApp, our workplace conversations have become more casual and fragmented as we navigate these multiple platforms. While you know we love a good GIF, understanding how to effectively communicate might just be one of the best skills you can learn as a business leader.

Improving your communication skills doesn’t have to be tricky either. Just a few simple pointers to keep in mind.

Don’t overdo the gifs and emojis?

We still love a quirky email here and there, but it’s knowing the right time and place. Understanding when it’s appropriate to lead with your favourite Drake gif and when it’s better to steer clear of the memes and stick to a more professional tone. 

Effective communication helps avoid misunderstandings and can give you a better sense of how your team works best together. Some of the best leaders in history were those who were able to nail their communication with others. 

Who wouldn’t want to be remembered as a boss leader?

Listen, listen and listen some more

One of the keys to effective communication isn’t actually talking at all, it’s listening – active listening.

Active listening means actually engaging with those who are talking to you, whether that’s asking follow up questions or giving affirmative responses to what they say. Rather than sitting there in your own head thinking about what you’re going to say next or what you’re doing for dinner tonight, you should be focused solely on the conversation in front of you. 

This also means focusing on one conversation at a time. If someone is talking to you on the phone, it might seem more productive to answer emails or messages at the same time. Instead, do those things after you’ve hung up. Giving your undivided attention to a conversation means you can clarify anything you don’t understand and not miss any details that might create misunderstanding later on. It also allows you to give more thoughtful answers that encompass what’s been said in the conversation. 

Have a little empathy

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”  – Peter F. Drucker

Peter was definitely on to something here. Communication isn’t just about words, it’s also about feelings. Being able to get in touch with and understand the feelings of those around you is called empathising. Emphasising with others can help build a rapport with them, which will improve your ability to communicate more effectively with them.

To effectively empathise with whoever your audience is, it’s important to get to know them first. What are their cultural norms? What are their communication preferences? Not sure? Just ask them. Ask your audience what they think makes a great communicator and then follow their lead.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Don’t just tell people you’re interested in what they have to say, show them! As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and the way you present yourself can say just as much as the words you speak. 

It’s all about your body language and non verbal cues. Whether you’re talking to people face-to-face or over a zoom call, showing accessible and positive body language throughout the conversation allows people to feel more comfortable and respond more positively to you. 

Avoid things like crossing your arms and slouching. Keep eye contact with whoever is speaking so they know you’re paying attention. It’s also important to show a positive attitude in your tone and even give a little smile. This even works if you’re on the phone! 

Thrive on feedback

Never be afraid to ask for feedback. Whether it’s your peers, colleagues or boss, asking for their honest opinion on your communication skills is probably one of the best ways to improve. You’ll also get a good insight into how you’re being perceived in your workplace. Not only can asking for feedback help you improve on things you might not have otherwise noticed, people often respect those who have a willingness and openness to learn – that’s a win, win.

No more miscommunications

The key to effective communication is remembering it’s not just about the things you say. Taking note of your body language and nonverbal cues, along with actively listening to others and being open to feedback will go a long way to improving your communication skills and the overall effectiveness of your team.

Learn more about effective communication

Read How to Listen: Discover the Hidden Key to Better Communication 

Listen Think Fast, Talk Smart: Communication Techniques podcast 

Watch TED: This is your brain on communication with Uri Hassan

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