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How to Become an Effective Communicator and a Great Leader

Posted by Caroline Le Brun | February 6, 2015 7:00 AM

Effective communication is important, no matter who you are. It becomes crucial if you’re trying to be a great leader (especially at the highest levels. Can you imagine being a CEO, CIO, or some other C-level executive without being a good communicator? I can’t). In all our interactions, we are constantly connecting with each other intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Having a good connection on all those fronts makes everything smooth. Work smarter: Communicate well to be a great leader

However, good verbal and non-verbal communication is much harder than most people realise, and can be easily misinterpreted. This miscommunication is not trivial. It can (and will) prevent you from achieving your personal and professional objectives. Consequently, there are certain capabilities that we have to acquire to maximize the power of our communication.  Work smarter by understanding some key factors I’ve found useful in improving communication skills.

1.  Understanding Cross-Generational Communication Differences

After I read Dr. Greg Hamill’s book “Mixing and Managing four Generations of Employees”, I realized that different generations have different work ethics and values, and are attuned to distinct leadership styles. Not understanding these differences will lead to friction – something we don’t want. The following table, reproduced and slightly adapted from Dr. Hamill’s work, is a handy guide of things to keep in mind when interacting with coworkers who grew up in eras different from your own:

 

WORKPLACE CHARACTERISTICS

 

Veterans
(1922-1945)

Baby Boomers
(1946-1964)

Generation X
(1965-1980)

Generation Y
(1981-2000)

Work Ethic & Values

Value hard work;
Have healthy respect for authority;
Sacrifice;
believe in duty first;

Encourage accountability by adhering to rules

 

Are workaholics;

Work efficiently;

Crusade for causes;

Desire personal fulfillment and quality;

Question authority

Want to eliminate tasks;

Are self-reliant;

Desire direction, structure;

Are doubtful

Look at what’s next;

Prefer multitask;

Are tenacious, entrepreneurial,

tolerant, and

goal-Oriented

Work Is…

A duty

An adventure

A hard challenge;

A contract

A means to an end;

Fulfillment

Leadership Style

Directive;

Command-and-Control

Consensual, collegial

 

Everyone is the same;

Challenge others;

Ask “Why?”

Too early to tell

Interactive Style

Individual

Team players;

Love meetings

Entrepreneurial

Participative

 

Communications

Formal memo

In person

Direct, immediate

Email; Voicemail

Feedback & Rewards

No news is good news;

Find satisfaction in a job well done

Don’t appreciate it;

Want money and recognition

Politely insistent for feedback;

Belief that freedom is the best reward

On demand;

Meaningful work

 

Messages That Motivate

Your experience is respected

You are valued;

You are needed

Do it your way;

Forget the rules

You will work with other bright and creative people

Work and Family Life

Completely separate

No balance;

Work to live

Balance

Balance

Source

2.  Understanding Cross-Cultural Communication

Technology has brought together many people from around the world (because of outsourcing or global expansion).  Among these people, communication on a daily basis has a cross-cultural component. It’s challenging to navigate, and Dr. Geert Hofstede did research to understand it all better.

In the 1970s, Dr. Hofstede created a model of social measurements that has become a universal standard. Following much data gathering, he scored every nation in the world on a scale of 0-100 for each measurement. The higher the score, the more that measurement is overtly apparent for a given culture. His results can be seen here.

I’ll let you look over the sight in depth on your own – it’s a big database. That said, here are some important cross-cultural norms that you should know sooner rather than later:

  • In Japan, bowing shows rank
  • In Northern Europe, slouching is impolite
  • In Turkey, keeping your hands in your pockets is disrespectful
  • In China and Japan, punctuality is very important
  • In India, bypassing a superior is a big deal 

3. Improving Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication

Verbal communication includes face-to-face and phone conversations while nonverbal communication includes email messages and business letters.  Albert Mehrabian - professor of psychology at UCLA - has become known for publications on the relative importance of verbal and non-verbal messages. 

His discoveries are known as the 7%-38%-55% Rule.  This rule indicates how information is communicated in messages:

  • 7% of the perceived words are spoken
  • 38% relates to the tone of voice that the message is perceived
  • 55% of message received is related to the body language

This really should explain why phone and text messages can lead to so much misunderstanding. 55 to 93% of information is missing from those interactions. 

Follow those tips to reduce those confusions and your stress during phone calls:

  1. Greet the caller, identify yourself, and ask how you can help
  2. Speak clearly and slowly in a pleasant tone of voice
  3. Refrain from using acronyms or jargon
  4. Ask before putting someone on hold
  5. Smile and sound enthusiastic (because people literally can hear you smiling)

And of course, because all of these tips boil down to being respectful toward the people with whom you’re communicating, they work well for in-person interactions as well. 

Here are some tips on improving email communication:

  1. Use personal greetings and closings.  This politeness will consolidate your relationship with the customer and demonstrate professionalism
  2. Pick your words carefully and proofread your message before sending it
  3. Do not use jargon/abbreviation
  4. Do not abuse the “CC” feature
  5. Do not include private and confidential info
  6. Use “Urgent” in your message’s subject if it’s high priority and requires immediate attention
  7. Do not use capital letters
  8. Do not send messages when angry or upset
  9. Read your email out loud to ensure the tone is that which you desire. Try to avoid relying on formatting for emphasis; rather choose the words that reflect your meaning instead. A few additions of the words "please" and "thank you" go a long way.
  10. Always end your emails with "Thank you," "Sincerely," or "Best regards."

Conclusion

Part of professionalism and leadership  is effective communication.  It’s one of the keys to work smarter – understanding what people mean and, perhaps even more importantly, realizing what you yourself are projecting. 

One of the reasons why Cimpl has become a market leader is because we’ve been very good at enabling all kinds of communication in-enterprise. In particular, we allow companies to promote a culture of IT asset transparency because our solutions give customers total visibility over their entire IT and telecom fleets and the ability to easily communicate necessary actions on technology assets with everyone in the organization. We help encourage accountability wherever possible. Contact us if you’re a CIO or IT manager who wants to be a better to lead the charge on managing your company’s technology assets.

Kaizen eBook - A Guide to IT & Telecom Management

 

Related Articles:

Topics: Core Values, Company Culture, Work Smarter, Tips, Best Practices, Work Place, Habits

Written by Caroline Le Brun

As a 16-year marketing veteran, Caroline’s experience extends across multiple industries. Since she joined Cimpl, her successful marketing campaigns have increased the company’s online and community presence, in addition to Cimpl’s footprint and appearances in new or traditional media (such as the Globe and Mail). Caroline is a specialist in communication and social media. She works closely with analysts to keep track of and adapt to the trends and changes in the industry of IT: Technology Expense management, IT cost optimization, Technology trends. Her leadership conducts Cimpl’s marketing team toward ever greater achievements. Caroline is also an exemplary citizen. Outside of work, she is involved in TEMIA, the Dorval Day Camp, and other community organizations. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Concordia University and a Master Certificate in Integrated online Strategies from the University of San Francisco Intensive Development program.

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