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Great leadership demands great communications

Reach your full potential by following these 7 golden rules

By Richard Ellis

As an executive coach and business strategist, leaders often ask me what will make them most successful. That’s easy – high-impact communications. 

Without strong communication skills, even the most experienced, brightest leaders won’t reach their full potential. Why? Because the strongest leaders are the ones who can motivate their teams to achieve business goals. Effective communication is critical – I would argue the most vital leadership tool to achieve sustained business success.

You know the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” That may be true but the good news is you can teach business leaders how to become better communicators. Here are what I call the seven golden rules of leadership communications.

1. Listen deeply: The best communicators listen for understanding and meaning. Then they adjust communications to ensure their key messages are heard. 

2. KISS – Keep it short and simple: What are the two or three key messages you want to get across? Whether one-on-one, in a team meeting, or giving a presentation, decide what your most important outcome is and focus on that. 

3. Tell a story: Personal storytelling makes your communications more powerful and more memorable. Share engaging, real-life experiences to illustrate your key points. 

4. Use humor: Fun is contagious and adds positive energy to your communications. It keeps people listening and increases your chances of achieving successful message delivery.

5. Manage your physical presence: Did you know that up to 90 percent of communication is non-verbal? Leaders project more confidence and get to decision-making more effectively by managing their physical and vocal presence. The simple act of smiling will relax you and make you a more approachable and engaging leader.

6. Take your time: Leaders think they must have immediate answers to every question. You don’t — that’s not optimized communications. Don’t be afraid of a little silence. Take the time you need to think about what you want to say before you say it.

7. No means no: We’re taught the word “no” is impolite. It’s not! Direct language is clear language. Whether it’s verbal or written communications, don’t be afraid to say no when you need to — just watch your tone so you don’t appear angry. 

Remember, being a great communicator isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. So play with your communications style, shamelessly steal best practices from others – and have some fun along the way.

Richard Ellis is the founder of Ellis Strategy Group, a global leadership consultancy. With more than 30 years of international business experience, he is an accomplished executive coach, high impact business strategist and noted communications expert. Find out more about Richard at ellisstrategygroup.com

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