Forget About What You Say. It's How You Say It
You know the old adage, "Don't shoot the messenger." Well, it's wrong. If you're a leader and you're message isn't getting heard, chances are the problem isn't the message itself. It's the way you're presenting it.
This is the fifth in a multi-part series on how to communicate as a leader. You can check out my previous columns on how different approaches (analytical, structural, social, and conceptual) will help you get through to your team more effectively. Here I'll cover the importance of how you express yourself--and how to harness the full spectrum of expressiveness as a leader to be clearer, more trustworthy, as well as inspiring.
How you express yourself can make or break you as a leader. Here's how to do it right:
Determine Where You Are on the Expressiveness Spectrum
First, you need to take a look at yourself and become aware of your own expressiveness style. Are you more comfortable in one-on-one conversations or being on stage, in front of people? Are you an internal processor, or do ideas enter your head and go straight out of your mouth? Do you look to connect very deeply with just a few people, or do you have many connections (both deep and shallow) with lots of people?
If you answered yes to the first part of each question, for instance, chances are you are on the quiet, more internal end of the expressiveness spectrum. Your strengths are that you take time to think before you speak, you probably listen well, and you evoke a composed, calm perspective to difficult challenges.
If you answered yes to the second part of each question, on the other hand, you are likely on the more gregarious, outgoing side when it comes to expressiveness. Your leadership strengths are that you are likely exuberant and very convincing. You can connect easily across many audiences and you feel comfortable bringing many people and ideas to the table.
Translate Your Approach to Your People: the Quiet, and the Outgoing
Of course, you have employees who are on both ends of the expressiveness spectrum, too. So you need to frame your leadership communication style to appeal to both. Here's how.
When interacting with those who are quiet, you should remember that expressiveness doesn't have to mean speaking. For instance, for these folks, an email can be just as effective. Don't put them on the spot. Give them time to react to a question and formulate an answer, even if your inclination is to pepper them with ideas. Most importantly, be sure you are gaining their perspectives in some way. Just because people don't speak up, doesn't mean they don't have great ideas.
When you're communicating with those who are more outgoing and gregarious, remember--and accept--that you don't have to be front and center. Let these folks take the spotlight. They will love you for it, and respond with passion. These employees, external processors, will also undoubtedly ask a lot of questions, so know that they're coming and be ready to back your decisions early and often. But challenge them first to listen and talk second. This ought to help them hear all perspectives.
Expressiveness is a powerful leadership tool. What's most important is to balance knowing your expressive self--perhaps getting more comfortable being a quiet, introspective leader or embracing your role as the inspirational, rally-the-troops general--and your team, so you can get the most out of everyone.