Any leader who cannot communicate will not be able to lead! It is important for leaders to understand that there is a difference between the ability to talk and the ability to communicate! When you talk you only make sounds and all the people within a close range can hear you but when you communicate, you send a message to the other person listening, the person understands the message and begins to respond according. There is nothing as leader can achieve without effective communication skills on display and you will, as a leader, learn to communicate from the beginning to the end. You must never assume that people know what to do or that they know what you expect from them. You must say it and say it in very clear terms. Even after saying all that you need to say, you have to confirm that they understand what you said!
Many of the leaders around the world either in politics, business, non-profit or specifically the religious circles think they are communicating but when you look at why they are not getting their desired results then you know that they are not communicating. How do you even realize that you are not communicating to your people? One of the first things you will see is that you have said something to the people and you are expecting a certain action after what you have said but you are seeing something else! You have to take your time in communicating and not just presume that you have spoken with the people so they understand what you have said.
I think that the issue of communication is also a bit more complex when you have people from different cultural backgrounds to relate with as a leader. You have to put to consideration what is acceptable in the different cultural backgrounds and how they communicate or even what some signal mean in their backgrounds. If you don’t get to understand that then you will mostly be talking above the heads of the people you intend to lead. In communicating, you must also ensure that you are not saying one thing while your gestures or general body language will be saying something else. As a leader you have to learn something about body language because it is a great part of our daily communication. As a student of communication we were taught that there is verbal and non-verbal communication. Most times, we tend to forget that the non-verbal communication – the things we don’t say out but express with gestures or our body – can be more important than the things we say out or even change the meaning of the things we say out.
When you need to communicate, sometimes you can start by asking questions relating to the things you intend to communicate to your followers. It is a way to engage their minds and get a bit of their perspective on the matter. Once you have a clear picture of what they are thinking about the issue, you can then rephrase your message, if you have to, just to make sure you are talking to them in the language that they understand very well. For some others, after saying everything that needs to be said, you may have to illustrate in pictures or any other form just to make sure you are reinforcing the message to the hearers.
You must also never forget that communication is a two way thing! That means you have to talk to your followers and you must allow your followers talk back. There may be some differences but when you keep talking to them and they also talk back to you there will be an agreement at some point. You cannot just be talking to them and expect them to take everything you want without you hearing from them. Hearing from the people you are talking to is an important part of your communication and at some point, the things you hear from them with determine what you will be saying to them! If you have to communicate in writing you should allow the people to write back but more importantly talk about it to you. Sometimes when you write you may be communicating something different from when you are speaking. There are people who do not show so much difference between when they are speaking and writing but some other speak in a certain way and write in another way. Be sure that what you are writing or saying is not misinterpreted. Send reminders on what you have said and let the people know what they are expected to do and when they are expected to do it. Let them also acknowledge that they understand what is expected of them but they should also feel free if they get to a point and they don’t understand something. Some leaders have become so influencial simply by communicating effectively and they have led an entire nation through a change process using communication skills.
Let me close this up by saying that you cannot communicate with the people you do not know! I have shared before in my previous articles about someone who said, ‘If you must teach John Latin, you must know John and you must know Latin.’ I also think that if you will be able to communicate effectively with anyone, you must know the person and you must also know how to communicate.
Fola Daniel Adelesi
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