Nothing moves people into action quicker than leaders who communicate well with their followers. It’s an absolute bonus to followers if a leader with great communication skills also possesses a proven record of honesty, integrity and a true commitment to the promises they make and the goals they seek for the group. As we watch the 2008 presidential campaign come to a conclusion, we can surely witness a varying degree of communication skills among the presidential and vice presidential candidates. We can only guess at this time, which qualities will make a difference in the choices of the voters: communication skills; or a record of honesty and integrity. However this lesson is not about politics, but rather about leading and learning communication skills.
I believe from my own experiences that communication skills can be learned just like playing tennis or golf. While most people believe you are born a great communicator, I beg to disagree. Communication skills are improved by understanding the fundamentals first, then investing time to practice and refine them. Often you hear people say that a car salesman was born with “the gift to gab.” Being comfortable “gabbing” does not make you a great communicator. In fact, gabbers or fast talkers will usually turn people off rather than move people to respect and follow them.
Great communicators are not gabbers. In fact, you may rarely even hear from some of the great communicators roaming our planet, yet when they do speak, everyone listens. Their words are valuable because they are rare. The words of a gabber are a dime a dozen.
Did you ever talk to someone who spoke so fast and so much that after a minute your mind just gave up and you didn’t even hear what they were saying anymore? You’ll never get that with a great communicator. When this type of person speaks, you tend to hang onto every word.
Let’s begin with a few essential techniques to follow to improve your communication skills. First you must organize your thoughts before you say anything. A confusing message is worse than no message at all. Many people don’t think before they speak. They’ll say anything and many times they’ll catch themselves mid-sentence wondering what their point was.
Secondly, you must practice saying exactly what you mean. Don’t beat around the bush. Be concise and don’t waste words. People will have more respect for you for not wasting their time with doubletalk. Everyone knows that politicians are masters at doubletalk. The saying, “Spoken like a true politician” means exactly that; beating around the bush, and not answering questions by just filling the space with words. And when it comes to the business world, you don’t have the leeway to use doubletalk with your customers. Your customers will walk across the street to your competitor right away. So always say what you mean and never waste the time of those you address.
Third, speak plainly, using the shortest and most familiar words. Your message must be clear and easily understood. A poor example of speaking clearly is Alan Greenspan. Did you ever understand what he’s saying? Of course, this is done on purpose; for even Greenspan said: “Since I’ve become a central banker, I’ve learned to mumble with great incoherence. If I seem unduly clear to you, you must have misunderstood what I said.”
Again, if you’re dealing in the marketplace, you don’t have the leeway to be incoherent. The retribution is immediate. For example, Blockbuster Video learned this lesson with their incoherent “No More Late Fees” campaign. Because it was not clear and easily understood Blockbuster immediately took a major hit to their business and reputation. Whether you are communicating in person or in print – be crystal clear about what you are attempting to communicate.
Fourth, be natural. Don’t try to be someone other than yourself. Be honest, caring and passionate about the message you are attempting to convey. No one likes or respects a phony. Individuals enjoy following a leader who is comfortable in their own skin. And honesty and integrity goes a long way when you are attempting to convince others of your position – even if it’s unpopular and a tough concept to swallow.
These are just a few pointers on becoming a great communicator. When you learn the fundamentals; practice them often; and eventually master them – you are on your way to bigger and better positions in life. People will take you seriously, and will place more value on your words. They will learn to trust you and want to follow you. Great communication skills can be learned. Start practicing them today.