One of the most important skills a leader must learn is effective communication. When sharing news with your team, you must carefully craft a message that everyone can easily understand while not sharing more information than necessary or inadvertently offending someone.
Being more mindful of your written and verbal communication can help protect both you and your team against unwanted consequences. Not sure where to begin? Try these 15 tips from the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust.
1. Navigate every conversation with empathy.
Leaders must navigate each conversation with empathy. Draft your message, weigh the alternative perspectives and acknowledge them. This will help the team understand that you have and are considering both sides in sharing the news. You should also consider sharing dates and next steps if the news has long-term implications, and allow time for team member comments and questions. – Zee Ali, Z-Swag
2. Don’t single anyone out.
Always keep the message positive. Do not single anyone out, but rather take them aside afterward for a private chat. When necessary, praise a person or team who has done exceptional work, but don’t make the message all about that. You do not want to imply that they are better than the rest of the team. Always put yourself in the shoes of the person(s) receiving the message. – Debra Young, Sheer Velocity, LLC
3. Create templates out of past effective messages.
I have been known to spend up to 30 minutes crafting an email — tone, language, spacing, font and length all get special focus. Depending on the content, I ask at least one other team member to review and offer feedback so I can edit before it gets sent out. Once I’ve found an email that works, I save it in a templates folder so I can adapt it again if need be. This saves time and energy later on. – Liz Wooten-Reschke, Connect For More
4. Get a second (or third) set of eyes on your message.
I am a big fan of getting a second or even third set of eyes on communications before they go out. Rely on peers who will keep it real with you and ensure that you are succinct, your tone hits the mark and the message is clear. Avoid jargon and unnecessarily complex language — communications are better when we write the way we speak. – Natalie Ruiz, AnswerConnect
5. Read it out loud first.
If you are sending anything in writing, say it out loud at least once. Words are converted to sounds in our brains for those voices we are familiar with. If your team can “hear” you saying the words you type, be sure that what they hear sounds like what you want to convey. – Steve Carstensen, Premier Sleep
6. Review the message from different perspectives.
Communicating with your teams is critical to keeping everyone engaged and involved. When presenting vital messages to our team, it is a standard practice that we review the message as an executive team to gain insights from different perspectives. What one person considers a clear message may have considerable “noise” when viewed from differing positions and backgrounds. – Adam Boudreaux, The Leadership Group LLC
7. Wait a day.
Sometimes writing the communication and letting the draft wait a day before release is helpful. Having someone else review the wording may provide a missing perspective. As always, seeking perfection can mean the release will not get out. Understanding when the message may be difficult for some persons to hear and talking about the message both before and after delivery may help. – Joy Frestedt, Frestedt Incorporated
8. Be timely, transparent and concise.
Transparency in communicating with your team doesn’t mean that all information has to be released; however, setting expectations and a definitive timetable where more information can be shared at the appropriate time creates a sense of trust and reduces team member anxiety about the unknown. Be concise and communicate with your team in a timely manner. – Scott Barnes, Barnes & Company
9. Be clear about your intention.
When the intention of the communication is clear, leaders can be laser-focused on exactly what to say and how to say it. Often, communicating the energy of a situation is a great way to stay clear of offending and releasing information prematurely. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management
10. Exercise emotional intelligence when reviewing your message.
Leaders must have a high degree of emotional intelligence to consistently communicate in a way that does not offend or have unintended consequences. Think through important conversations and intentionally define the message you want the audience to receive. Write it down, review it and change it as many times as needed. Put yourself in the shoes of the audience you will be speaking to, and be genuine. – Kenneth Croston, Electronic Locksmith, Inc.
11. Consider what matters to your stakeholders.
The key to effective leadership communication is to spend time considering your stakeholders’ points of view before crafting the message. What matters to them? What are their key concerns? How will they hear the message? Craft the message and then ask editors to take these perspectives. In all cases, remain authentic and true to the values of the company. – Jean Brittingham, New Legends
12. Ask for feedback.
Get constant feedback. If you have consistent and frequent dialogue with your team, you’ll gain a better handle on what kinds of information you should share and what kinds you shouldn’t. If you ever make a mistake, it’s usually not a big deal as long as you follow up, gather feedback and learn from it. That actually inspires trust. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove
13. Follow a clearly defined communication strategy.
By intentionally and thoughtfully creating communications that are based on defined pillars of how and why you’re communicating, you’re less likely to go off track, and your employees will have clearer expectations. – Keri Higgins-Bigelow, livingHR, Inc.
14. Keep it simple.
I think that the general rules of effective communication apply here: the simpler, the better. Make sure your message has no room for misinterpretation, give examples to support your point and if you aren’t sure how the message came across, ask right away. Don’t wait until someone gets offended or upset. And if they do, apologize. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
15. Actively listen after you communicate.
Become an active listener and show your team that you are fully concentrated on them. When you make a conscious effort to understand what someone is saying rather than just hearing it, it can improve trust with your team and make you more approachable as a business leader. Being attentive to what your team has to say is important for making workplace improvements and retaining great individuals. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group