Article by Dan Scalco
Whether you manage employees, coordinate a team of volunteers, serve on a board, or are in charge of juggling your family's schedule, your leadership skills hinge on your ability to communicate effectively with others. Here are six communication tips that will make you a better leader, improve your relationships with other people, and boost your team's productivity and morale:
1. Know Yourself
All good communication starts from a place of self-awareness. When you're communicating with other people, you need to be aware of your inner monologue. You don't want to take out your bad mood on someone else. It's also important to know what you're hoping to achieve from a given interaction so you can tailor your message accordingly.
2. Know Your Audience
The best communication occurs when you understand the person you're speaking to. Knowing your audience's motivations, learning styles, and preferred communication methods allows you to adapt your message to make it more effective for the context. Making a personal connection facilitates empathy, puts people at ease, and builds trust.
Just one caveat: In order to be effective, personal connections need to be genuine, not exploitative.
3. Be Direct, Specific, and Clear
Clear communication increases the likelihood that people will comprehend your message and take whatever action you may be asking of them. It's better to over-explain something than to leave room for misunderstanding.
Whenever you're delivering an assignment or asking for assistance from someone, focus on providing simple, actionable, and specific instructions. It's helpful to prepare your thoughts in advance so you can communicate all the relevant details. Don't end a conversation until you're sure the other person understands your objectives and how to achieve them. Deliver instructions in a friendly, open way so the other person knows they can approach you with follow-up questions.
4. Pay Attention to Nonverbal Communication
Plenty of research suggests nonverbal communication is just as important as what a person says, if not even more important. Facial expressions, hand gestures, posture, and eye contact all play a major role in affirming or undermining your message.
Whenever you're talking with someone, try to be aware of both your own body language and the body language of your conversation partner. In particular, pay attention to whether your body language aligns with what you're saying; this will help you to be a more trustworthy communicator and make you seem more self-assured.
5. Listen More Than You Speak
One of the best ways to encourage open and honest communication within a group is to model active listening. When someone is speaking to you, really listen to what they're saying. Ask follow-up questions to demonstrate that you're paying attention and to make sure there are no miscommunications. Keep an open mind and focus on thoughtfully responding to what people say instead of immediately reacting. This practice builds rapport and understanding between the communicating parties.
6. Be Positive and Respectful
To cultivate loyalty and boost team performance, prioritize transparent, fair, and respectful communication within the group. Don't hold your status over other people or use coercion or fear as motivators. Instead, focus on bringing an honest, positive, and ego-less attitude to every situation that arises. Serving as a cheerleader instead of an autocrat helps maintain morale and can even facilitate creativity and effective problem-solving.
Each of the above tips represents an ongoing practice. You won't master them in a day or even a year. Instead, you'll need to commit to practicing these strategies for life. The more you implement these skills, the more they'll start to feel like second nature – and the more your leadership abilities will benefit.
A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.
Dan Scalco is the founder and director of marketing at Digitalux, a digital marketing agency located in Hoboken, New Jersey. Throughout his career, he has helped hundreds of businesses save time, increase leads, and maximize sales. Connect with him on LinkedIn.