By: Rebecca Shambaugh
An effective manager understands that the power of words can transform overwhelmed, challenged employees into powerhouse teams that are resilient, hopeful, and engaged. Leaders of every stripe and sector know that it’s not just the message you wish to communicate, but the way you do it. It can mean the difference between a committed, firing-on-all-pistons team, or one that’s deflated and coasting along.
Whether you’re giving a keynote speech or sitting in a conference room, make your words count. Here are five ways to inspire your team to reach for achievement.
#1: Articulate Your Vision
Telegraph a “can do” attitude; rather than saying “We will try,” focus on “We Will” and “We Are.” Use a variety of metaphors, stories, symbols and even visual aids, to create a common ground of experience, interests, and dreams. Focus beyond shared values and identity to describe a shared future. Let people know you have the utmost confidence in them to succeed.
#2: Adapt your Style, but Don’t Lose Yourself
Good leaders know how to read a situation and adjust their style and communications accordingly. To do so it’s important to assess a situation or people before engaging in communications or negotiations. Step back and consider the context or situation you are dealing with. For example, if your normal style is a more dominant one and you’re approaching someone who has more of a conscientious style or who is from a different culture, you’ll need to match that level of detail. Come into the conversation exploring all the possibilities; be sure you have your facts straight with some proven examples.
#3: Speak from the Heart
The quickest way to inspire a group is to give of yourself. Express your own values, passions, and emotions when appropriate, which reflects your true self. It’s also important to acknowledge your audience’s point of view. Let people know that you have heard them and understand where they are coming from. It’s also vital to reference the history of working together, progress you have made and the common principles and goals you share. This will enable your listeners to feel comfortable and committed to your message.
#4: Communicate by Watching and Listening
Much of our message is delivered via non-verbal communication -- our body language, our voices, the subtle cues that create the message. You’ll also want to be aware of and respond to cues from your audience. Are they engaged, defensive, confused by what you’re saying? Watch their body language, eye contact and any other non-verbal cues. Another way to communicate is to simply listen to your audience. Do so with empathy and compassion so that you can observe your audience’s true feelings. Paraphrase and summarize what you heard. Repeat back to the person in your own words what you understand they are telling you.
#5: Tell It Like It Is
Speaking the truth is a critical attribute for leaders to demonstrate, particularly during challenging or unfortunate times. Many studies site the number one quality of a leader as integrity and honesty. Consistency in both words and actions creates trust and honesty. Integrity means that, as a strong leader, you have the courage to stand up for a set of important principles and beliefs, even when the message is in conflict with what others what to hear. Always consider the consequences of not having the hard conversation -- which may ultimately make things more difficult. Be your own critic before you make your speech. Challenge your own assumptions; make sure you are well prepared; avoid painting a rosy picture or glossing over facts. Doing so will create a sense of uninformed optimism which can decrease the amount of trust and respect that others have of you as a leader.
Rebecca Shambaugh is the founder and CEO of Shambaugh Leadership in Washington, DC. She is the author of The Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton.