I’m continually asked for the most important leadership communication principles. While what’s effective will vary based on the person or situation, there are a number of tried-and-true fundamentals that make the difference between simply sharing information and communication that moves people to action (and that they feel great about). Maybe we should call this principle-centered communication:
Principle 1: Communicate with Integrity
- Employees want to know what you have to say, but more importantly, who you are and what you stand for.
- People are more apt to trust you when your actions match your words. Even better, do what you say before you say it. Lead by example.
- You are a valued messenger. You either make or break the message.
Principle 2: Make time to communicate and make the most of that time
- Saying you don’t have time to communicate means you don’t have time to lead.
- If the message is important enough, it deserves face-to-face communication, or at least voice-to-voice.
Principle 3: Remember the fundamentals
- Always speak the truth, without exception.
- Share the “big picture” first. It helps everyone start with the same base of knowledge.
- Cover the basic questions employees have first—Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.
- Constantly communicate the “why” to make action meaningful. Always answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” and “Why should I care?”
- Tell people what needs to be done and help them do it.
- Ask questions. Employees want to have their opinions heard.
- If you don’t know, say so.
Principle 4: Use stories
- Tell stories because they create meaning and can be shared. The right anecdote can be worth a thousand theories or facts, and will more likely be remembered.
- Make your stories memorable and keep them fresh and relevant.
- Listen to employees’ stories. You can learn a lot about them and what’s on their minds through what they say and the stories they tell.
Principle 5: Build trust and credibility
- Be visible and approachable. You’ve got to be seen to be trusted.
- Take the time to explain yourself and your thinking. Make yourself predictable to your employees.
- Employees will follow you if you genuinely make them feel good about themselves and display an honest appreciation for who they are and what they do for the organization.
- Ask for your employees’ opinions regularly. Engage them openly and fully. You might be surprised what you learn.
- Create opportunities for conversations that create understanding, and spread knowledge and expertise.
Principle 6: Check for understanding
- The job isn’t done when the message is sent. Make sure it’s heard and really understood.
- Go beyond answering questions. Think of it as an opportunity to respond to people, address their issues, and show you care.
- Ask employees questions to check their level of understanding and really listen to what they’re saying.
What one or two principles do you need to work on that would make a significant difference for your employees?