Every day you shape how others view your leadership, through how you communicate. You send messages directly and indirectly all the time. Although this sounds really obvious, most people don’t take time to think about how their communication style affects their credibility.
The biggest opportunities to improve how we communicate typically exist when we know exactly what we mean and are laser focused on our message, because this is when we may forget to provide important context. We can leave people confused or making incorrect assumptions about our intentions.
So, here are three important questions to ask yourself before you engage someone, or to have your team think through before they approach you:
1. What do I want the other person to do with the information?
When you approach someone with information, the first thing she typically wonders is, “Why are you telling me this?”
Do you want me to take action? Help you problem-solve?
Are you just giving me an update?
Are you venting? Do you just need me to listen?
Remember to Connect the Dots for others to help them understand how the information impacts them and what you expect from them.
2. How important is this?
Next, ask yourself what level of priority the topic really warrants. Remember that by having a conversation focused on a single topic you may inadvertently give it more emphasis than you intended. Even the method of communication — face-to-face vs. phone or email — can convey relative importance.
Given the level of priority (high, medium, or low) what method and timing make sense? Should this topic be bundled with others? Can it wait to be discussed at a meeting you already have scheduled on another topic? Each approach communicates a different level of priority.
3. How can I connect this to the bigger picture?
Finally, consider the strategic significance of the information you want to share. If you are like most people, you have a bigger issue or business priority in mind even when you are “in the weeds.” How consistently do you make that connection for others in how you frame your message?
If you are in a leader’s office frequently talking about what seem like minor things at a surface level, it can undermine your credibility over time. Ensure the leader understands how each item relates to a bigger picture.
This week, I want to challenge you to think about these three questions as you communicate. Where do the biggest opportunities lie for you? What one step can you take to build your credibility through your communication style? Don’t forget that small steps can lead to big results.
© 2012 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.