CEOs and business owners must possess a wide range of talents to lead their organisations. Being able to communicate clearly and across a spectrum of audiences might be one of the most important to cultivate.
Unfortunately, in the hectic rush of daily operations and other “putting out fires” activities, honing one’s communications skills sometimes gets overlooked. This can lead to internal confusion, cultural dysfunction, and other undesirable business outcomes.
To build and maintain your abilities to clearly communicate, keep these high-level tips in mind:
Know your audience
In the course of a day or week, CEOs come in contact with different teams of employees, different departments, customers, and other key stakeholders. Don’t make the mistake of adopting a “one-message-fits-all” approach.
Always be mindful of adjusting your language, depending on the audience you’re addressing. Avoid specialised jargon that no one in a particular audience can understand. This doesn’t mean talking down to people, only that communication gets hindered when the speaker fails to use wording that’s coherent and understandable to the people being addressed.
Take time to rehearse important speaking engagements
CEOs often speak before groups of employees and/or fellow CEOs or at industry events. Regardless of how strong a public speaker you consider yourself, it never hurts to rehearse your speech (or informal remarks) in front of the mirror or before a small, select audience, like your spouse, perhaps.
Practise what you intend to say, then rehearse how you’re going to say it. Pay close attention to the speed with which you talk, the cadence of your voice and the ways in which your body language either reinforces your message or distracts from it. Yes, rehearsing and observing your speech patterns takes time and effort, but your various audiences will greatly appreciate better understanding what you have to tell them—and your leadership efforts will benefit, as well
Speaking of public speaking, you can enhance your efforts through these venues:
- Quarterly town hall meetings. Schedule events at which all or most of your employees can attend. Share as much as you reasonably can about the state of business operations—recent triumphs, setbacks, opportunities to come, etc. Leave time for an employee Q&A afterward and prepare yourself, as much as possible, to be thorough and honest in your responses.
- Weekly status email updates. Consider sending a concise weekly message to employees throughout the company. The message can reference important ongoing initiatives or simply be a short statement of gratitude. Let people become accustomed to hearing from you on a regular basis.
- Explore industry-related or trade show speaking opportunities. As owner or CEO, you’re the “face” of your company’s brand. Making clear, articulate presentations to audiences beyond your office walls helps build brand awareness and can lead to prospective client opportunities as well. As your experience grows, you’ll be invited to public events of greater dimension and significance, bolstering your communications skills while also enhancing the quality of your brand.
Work on your one-on-one skills
Some CEOs are more comfortable in a one-on-one conversation, while others avoid it at all costs. Not surprisingly, the need for “difficult conversations” (with clients, executives, etc.) comes up from time to time. Take such opportunities to strengthen your ability to handle conflict, discuss solutions to nagging issues and being as transparent as possible about what needs to be done in a given situation.
Becoming more adept at high-level communications will make any owner or CEO a more effective leader. People want to hear what you have to say. Saying it clearly, the right way, can inspire and motivate them to new heights of performance.