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Photo: Halfpoint, YFS Magazine

Why Business Leaders Must Be Strong Communicators

To understand communication, you must first understand perception. What is ‘picked up’ constructs that person’s reality.


To understand communication, you must first understand perception. Each person has their own way of viewing the world, gained from their own experiences, beliefs and values. In this sense two people hearing the same communication can create a different interpretation.

Photo: Chris Delaney, Speaking Coach at Project Charisma | Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Chris Delaney, Speaking Coach at Project Charisma | Source: Courtesy Photo

When given a communication (or when faced with any sensory stimuli) the brain processes the information through ‘filters’ Which include include their language, pace, tonality and diction, which all influence the listeners perception, creating an unconscious bias.

Perception process is the manner in which a person selects and organizes information. What is ‘picked up’ constructs that person’s reality.

An example of this is a manager giving a talk to an underperforming team, designed to motivate them to increase production. Hearing how sales has fallen, overhead cost has increased and how the industry is highly competitive, can result in one staff member being motivated to work harder, while another employee has an increase in stress, as they believe they will soon be made redundant.

 

Leaders can improve communication

By understanding a team’s characteristics, behaviors, personality traits and cultural background can help an individual to shape their communication to ensure the message is received as it was intended. Communication, in any form, should result in mutual understanding.

“Communication, in any form, should result in mutual understanding.”

Cultural assumptions and ambiguous language can add to the miscommunication of a message. What is needed then, is an understanding of each team member.

An example of this is group language. Teams working together often create their own language, industry acronyms, short-cuts and use of metaphors to describe sector related problems. If the system of language isn’t known, say to a newly formed team, communication can break down.

Assumptions is a big barrier between departments. One department may presume that another department knows the background to, lets say, a business change. When stating the upcoming business changes, the second department, who haven’t previously heard about a particular situation, become anxious about this unexpected turn of events.

 

Communication Content Vs Process

Communication is a mixture of content and process. Content is the subject matter and process is how the subject matter is being communicated.

The process can have a negative effect on the message. Communication processes include choosing the correct language, the communication medium, deleting distortions and the receiver’s perceptions; testing the message has been received as intended.

Interpersonal communication, in the workplace, is how an employer and employee communicate and exchange information. This includes verbal and nonverbal communication.

Nonverbal communication includes body language, gestures, micro facial expressions, voice tonality, voice volume and eye contact, with 93% of emotional messages being non-verbal.

When sharing a message to a team member(s) it is important to check nonverbal cues to assess if the communication has been received as intended; a blank look expresses a lack of understanding and the need for clarity.

As previously discussed, cultural differences can distort communication, with non-verbal communication, as an example, a certain gesture having a symbolic meaning, creating confusion.

 

The communication medium

The chosen medium for a communication is important.

An email, as an example, doesn’t have the same number of nonverbal cues that reinforces the message. The tone of voice can make the difference between a sentence being taken as an order or a humorous statement. Certain communications, such as firing an employee, should be delivered by a particular communication medium.

When a communication is received, the listener often generalises the data which then has an anchored emotional response to it.  What this shows is that a particular type of communication, the communicator or a particular phrase can create an automatic emotional response.

An example would be a manger asking an employee to “come to my office”  the anchor to this statement could be fear as the generalisation created for the said statement is that ‘employees are only called to the office if they are to be reprimanded’. This anchor changes the employee’s behaviour which affects not only the employer’s behaviour (as we take ques from others) but also process for the communication.

Framing or setting the scene, prior to the intended communication, can help break an anchor. A simple e-mail statement to the employees explaining that each employee will be called into the office to discuss their Christmas bonus can create a new state.

 

Conclusion

When communicating any information, it is important to plan the content and process.

In the planning stage reflect on the listeners current knowledge of the forthcoming communication – Is a detailed explanation or background required?

Challenge your own assumptions; is the level of the receiver’s knowledge as accurate as predicted? will the listeners accept or challenge the communication? Have I planned the best forum to deliver the communication?

When reflecting on the delivery think about the chosen language, tonality and pace of the communication. Finally, what checks have you included to ensure the message has been received accurately?

 

Chris Delaney is an author, trainer and speaking coach at Project Charisma.

 

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Photo: Halfpoint, YFS Magazine
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