How Well Do You Communicate As a Leader? Take the Test!

By Helen Battersby

Communication- it works but what is it?

Peppered amongst the winners of The Sunday Times 100 best companies to work for 2009 results are references to the key role played by communication. "Our unique survey of more than 200,000 workers shows that those companies where the leadership communicates effectively and has a focus beyond profits alone are the ones managing to carry their staff with them." (Sue Leonard The Sunday Times).

Few managers would argue the importance of communication. But we can forget as human beings we are constantly communicating and need to be aware of the messages we are relaying. For, what if, instead of leading to positive engagement and high performance our communication leads rather to confusion, presenteeism or alienation?

Before you even think of how clearly you communicate objectives and vision, think of what you are saying to your team in the way you walk into an office space and engage with them. Are you frosty and remote? Good mornings and afternoons are noticed. An absence of these acknowledgements and you could be communicating distance, superiority, lack of care. The question to ask is: does this motivate others, does it invite commitment?

How does your demeanour and language invite comment, new ideas, provide a catalyst to others' creativity? Communication is listening as well as talking. Active listening asks questions to enhance understanding and to engage others. This type of communication elicits nuggets of intelligence important for the development of the business as well as validating your team members. Team members who know they are listened to (hence valued) are encouraged by the very act of active listening to be proactive and accountable (they've had some input).

If you, as a manager, are hearing only your own voice in team meetings think about how you are inviting contribution- or not. How can you communicate the expectation and welcome of greater participation?

Recognise that people have different communication styles. Keep different channels of communication open. Some members of your team will be great in an open forum; others may need to reflect before contributing effectively. Know what works to make your whole team effective and to ensure you can adapt your communication style to get the best out of each member.

Whatever your personal style or that of your team, trusting what is communicated is the key to its efficacy. Without trust people will not listen, engagement is replaced with cynicism and its attendant spiral of lacklustre performance.

Effective communication is multi-layered, aware and flexible- inflexible only on the matter of trust. Lose that and you don't even get an ear!

Are you an effective communicator? Take the following test to find out. On a scale of 1-10 to what extent can I affirm the following?

  1. I am aware that I am constantly communicating and that I can influence behaviours and morale by the way in which I communicate verbally and non -verbally.
  2. I understand the importance of small communication in creating a relationship and acknowledge others through greetings and positive body language
  3. I encourage input from others and receive this both up and down the chain
  4. I find a healthy spread of contribution from all members in meetings
  5. I am aware of the different communication styles in my team and know how to leverage these to greatest effect
  6. I communicate praise as well as developmental information in a timely and constructive fashion
  7. People know when they receive information from me that it is to be trusted
  8. I never communicate inappropriately (to wrong channels) or gossip
  9. I ask questions to expand and deepen my understanding
  10. I get back to people promptly and encourage others to do the same.
  11. I ask for feedback on my communication style to check my perceptions and the perceptions of others.

Notice the areas where you need to become more aware. If you don't already, ask for feedback from your peers, reports and managers perhaps using the above questions.

Any lower than a 7

- What could you do to improve the score? What small thing you could implement straight away that would make a difference? What could you start doing differently? What do you need to stop doing? What could you do more of?

7 and over

- Well done. Chances are you are an effective communicator with an engaged team which contributes actively and effectively to the success of the organisation. Are there areas you could still improve? Is communication equally effective across team/peers and upward management? How can you actively encourage effective communication across all areas of your influence?

Helen Battersby
Good to Great Coaching Limited

Helen is an executive coach with a business background working for an international company in senior managerial roles including MD of a UK branch and CEO of a pan-European group of companies. She combines her experience and talents as a coach to help her clients define and achieve high performance.

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