You can’t pick up a leadership book or piece of engagement research without someone telling you how fundamentally important ‘being a great communicator’ is in a leader’s skillset. And let’s face it, it’s not an assertion that many are going to argue with.
Very few of the leaders I come across would categorise themselves as ‘great’ communicators (even with their modesty filter removed). Most would say they’re a work in progress, and a few would cite themselves as remedial. For those who want to improve their communication style (and perhaps even become great), it’s good to know the starting point. While there are bucket loads of different communication styles, here are four of the most common ones I come across:
And then we have the Navigators. Those people who seem to be able to effortlessly make the complex a bit more digestible, interesting even. And they seem to be clear about both what they want to say and what they want from you, and why it matters, and what you can expect in return.
So can a Jargonista or a Transactor become a Navigator? Is this a learnable skill or is it something you either just have or you don’t?
As with most things in life, if someone’s making something look easy that many people struggle with, they’ve probably been putting in the hours in behind the scenes. They may have picked up hints and tips from their favourite leaders along the pathway of their career, and who knows, perhaps they’ve even had some coaching.
For those who have not been so lucky, here are three fundamental ‘make its’ to keep in mind if you are an aspiring Navigator:
A lot of our work is angled towards the C-suite and senior leaders, with a healthy dose of development for emerging talent thrown in for good measure. But I’ve been asked several times in the last few months about communication support for frontline leaders, and when that happens, it usually means there’s something going on that’s worth exploring.
Here’s a fun exercise... think back to some of the things you’ve heard people say about their leaders. Things like...
‘He’s got a brain the size of a planet but absolutely zero empathy’
‘I respect her, but I wouldn’t want to sit next to her on a long-haul flight’
‘Beware - he’ll tell you what you want to hear then do something completely different’
Or my favourite...
‘I reckon she reads accountancy books in bed’
Typical, and all real I should add.