By Steve Adubato, Ph.D.
When it comes to being an effective leader, the connection between leadership and communication cannot be overlooked.
Great communication is about connecting with someone about something that matters to both of you. This kind of human, personal and somewhat visceral connection is all too rare in our lives—be it at work or in our personal lives. Sometimes, the person communicating, regardless of how long he or she has been in a leadership role, is clueless that they haven’t connected—or that a connection is either necessary or required. Other times, a communicator wants to connect or “get on the same page” with someone and they lack the skills and tools to accomplish it.
Compelling examples, anecdotes and analogies, utilizing a clear and compelling message, having genuine eye contact and being concise are just some of the ways a leader can use communication to connect with others. However, there are some items you can add to your “toolkit” that fall into a very different category that, when utilized effectively, will help you command your audience’s attention and will increase the odds that you will make the connection you want.
--Silence…or a long pause before you begin presenting. Very often your audience will be engaged in sidebar conversations or the typical buzzing that often occurs before a presentation begins. One of the biggest mistakes a communicator can make is to begin a presentation while this is going on. When you do this, you send the message that it is okay to talk while you are presenting. Well, it’s not okay and one of the best ways to get that message across is to not speak until the room is absolutely silent. From high school students to business executives, virtually any audience will respond to your silence by stopping their conversations and looking at you wondering, “what gives?” At first, this is going to feel a bit uncomfortable. But over time, this approach will pay big dividends for both you and your audience. Bottom line? Own the room!
--Self-aware and natural body language. When you are slouching, have your hands in your pockets, or are cowering behind the podium, the message is sent that you are uncomfortable with this communication experience. You may be uncomfortable, but you can’t let your audience know it. Instead, stand tall, put your shoulders back, get your hands out of your pockets and get out from behind the podium. Again, at first you’ll feel like you are in uncharted territory, but the more you do it, the more comfortable and more confident you will feel. In turn, your audience will have more confidence in you and what you have to say. Finally, you will feel their confidence in you. The whole thing builds on itself. People feel a connection with those they admire and respect and the way people carry themselves goes a long way in that regard.
--A positive, “I’m glad to be here” attitude. Positive people usually get a positive response from their audience. You need to get yourself in a constructive state of mind. If you don’t, your audience is going to know it right away. It’s all about the energy you give off. It doesn’t matter how good your material is, if you have a bad attitude you have no chance at making a meaningful connection. Instead of thinking, “I can’t believe I have to give this stupid presentation,” say to yourself, “What a great opportunity to share with these people and make a connection.” It’s all about attitude.