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:
- Transactors are the minimalists of communication. They generally want to tell you something and then leave you (and be left!) alone. Short and simple is their mantra. When delegating, they may be very clear about defining the tasks, but whether anyone actually wants to get stuck in is another question entirely.
- Detail-darlings prefer not to edit, suffering as they do from the ‘curse of knowledge’. Instead, they’re very happy to share everything they know about their area of expertise, which in their eyes has the added advantage of showing how clever they are and how hard they work…while their audience takes a well-earned nap.
- Picture-painters like to talk strategy and big ideas. Often their intelligent brilliance fails to joins the dots of their thinking for mere mortals, which means audiences have not the first clue how this apparent stream of consciousness hangs together or what it means for them.
- Jargonistas are very often well-intentioned and have simply inadvertently forgotten that you don’t speak their lingo. But sometimes, their motivations are more sinister…they don’t want you in their club, and more importantly, don’t want you to know what they’re talking about (probably because they’re not so sure themselves).
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:
- Make it crystal clear – Spend time getting real clarity about what you want to achieve and the core narrative that will help you achieve it. And then stick to it…most corporate communication is either unfocused or over-loaded, and sometimes both.
- Make it connect – Think about how you can frame what you have to say in ways that matter to you audience, and show how what you’re talking about impacts the things they care about
- Make it your own – Own the message by making it one that only you can deliver. By weaving in your experience, points of view, stories and examples, your messages will be more real, interesting and memorable.