Words Matter: Tips to Boost Leadership Communications

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There’s a famous phrase: “You are what you eat.” It seems to me that every book on management and cooperation with employees should begin with the words, “You are what you say.” Continuing the analogy, “Your business looks the way you present it.

As my career progressed, I began to take note of the importance of leadership communication skills since they began to influence not only the productivity of the teams under my management but also the development of the business in general.

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In this post, I share my vision of the importance of communication skills for a leader and some tips that help me represent the company to different audiences.

Why every leader needs to enhance their communication skills

As your business grows, you will face the need to give comments and interviews, speak on behalf of the company and communicate with partners many times. From this point, the success of your business depends on how you communicate with your audience.

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People need people, which is why the public associates businesses and their products with company representatives, even when the representatives avoid publicity. Leaders also broadcast the company’s values, influencing public perception of the business.

At the same time, responsibility grows correspondingly — the future of the business depends on what company leaders say. Words spread to every corner of the globe in seconds, so you must carefully monitor what you say along with where and how you say it. At this point, you must learn how to control your emotions and perfect your public communication skills.

How I realized that it was time for me to enhance my communication skills

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As the business has developed internationally, and since I became co-CEO of Parimatch Tech, communication has grown significantly. As a partner, I only used to comment publicly on a fairly narrow range of legal issues. But now I engage in negotiations with partners, regulators, government representatives and representatives of the country’s IT sector at events such as Web Summit and give multiple interviews to journalists. At one point, so many important negotiations were taking place that I felt the need to enhance the way I communicated with different audiences.

Tips to communicate thoughts right on target

No, I’m not the sort of person who can inspire colleagues to move mountains or launch spaceships with just a few well-chosen words. But I follow some life hacks and tips that help me communicate with people and convey the business’s values to our partners more accurately. Here are some tips I’ve formulated along the way.

It’s never too late to learn from the professionals

If we want to learn how to drive, we go to a driving school. Communication skills are developed using the same approach. I must admit, I don’t train regularly with a mentor. However, I train periodically to develop public speaking skills. In addition, when preparing for important conferences or meetings, I rehearse in private and practice my speech with a public speaking mentor. It’s never too late to learn.

Humor is a delicate tool

Humor helps “break the ice”, but it’s important to know when to use it. Humor exists in a situation of in-depth understanding of the general context. When the contexts are strikingly different, people don’t get the joke — and that creates distance.

I’ve decided not to make jokes when the contexts are too different. Think about the components: same organization, same language, same geography, same age, same gender, same interests, the same culture, etc. The more points that don’t match, the less likely the joke is a good idea.

But when you’re confident in meeting the context and understanding the culture, making jokes with people from other organizations and cultures helps build trust rapidly. A joke always carries the risk of being misunderstood, but going through this risk together builds trust.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself

This is vital for gaining the audience’s trust because it’s hard to empathize with someone who’s “perfect.” And where there’s no empathy, there’s no trust. Accepting your past failures as an essential part of the journey, acknowledging them, and learning the lessons is helpful. Share your failures with your audience, and people will trust you more.

Immediacy, honesty and just being yourself are essential attributes for a leader wanting to win trust. Showing weakness is allowed and sometimes necessary, but do so judiciously and only when appropriate.

Try to avoid the trap of the information vacuum

Since you’re the boss, you may imagine that your listeners are hanging on to your every word. But that’s not necessarily so. Overusing corporate jargon and clichés, adopting a formal tone, giving evasive answers to questions and making tedious text presentations from speeches written on paper are sure ways of losing your audience to boredom, skepticism and quite possibly sleep. This approach inspires and convinces no one.

To avoid these pitfalls, collect feedback or ask people to share what they took away from your presentation. You’ll be surprised, but in a third of cases, people tell you something entirely different from what you told them — this is a clear sign that you failed to convey the idea. Always analyze these cases, look for your communication mistakes, and get feedback from people you trust.

The tongue can lie, but not the body

Before you open your mouth, the rest of your body has already begun to speak for you: facial expressions, gestures and glances. The body doesn’t always follow the tongue, and even acting training won’t help you fool an attentive audience. Body language is something to keep in mind, especially if you have something to hide.

Concealing information has a cumulative negative effect

Concealment can easily lead to managerial failure. When hiding your objectives, the company will follow the wrong path, and the wrong result will be achieved instead of the one you need. Therefore, goals and strategies must be communicated with total transparency.

This communication can occur during the sync-ups with the team and, in the case of a company, at corporate meetings.

Mistakes are the best teacher

Everyone makes them, even the best of us. That’s why I study the areas in my communications that my listeners misunderstand, and I focus on them. To find the problem areas, you need to monitor people’s reactions to your words and learn to read non-verbal signs of irritation or loss of attention.

A few words in conclusion

Leadership communication should engage the listener, involve them in the vision, build trust, inspire confidence and energize.

To attract the best specialists, you need to convince them they’d be better off working with you. Apart from providing a clear vision of interaction, engagement also helps. There is a formula for creating engagement — be yourself, be honest, demonstrate your past achievements, and present a strategy for the future.

As with any skill, effective communication requires practice. Practice, get feedback and keep working on it — this will have a positive impact not only on your business but on your personal life as well.

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