What might be the most valuable leadership skills in a business environment? At Leadercast Women, a panel of Oklahoma City’s leaders consisting of Lauren Brown, Asa Levaeux, Paula McDade, and Juanita Ortiz, shared their thoughts. They narrowed the four skills down to communication, listening, empathy, and transparency. Here are tips on each skill to help maximize your effectiveness with each. While some of these tips may seem a bit elementary, they are pure gold to remember when working in a leadership position.
- Make it a priority. In fast-paced environments, we can forget that effective communication takes time and effort. Sending a quick email to communicate one thing, might not be as effective for other communication needs.
- Don’t shy away from difficult conversations. The goal of tough conversations should be to come to a positive resolution that will be worth it in the end.
- Keep in mind how employees communicate best. Some may prefer an in person visit over a phone call or electronic communication. It might be a good idea to keep notes as to employee’s communication preferences.
- When delivering a message in person, body language is how the majority of a message is delivered. Always try to be aware of what your facial expression and other body cues are expressing to your listener when you are speaking to them.
- Good leaders take the time to listen to and encourage feedback from their employees.
While it goes hand in hand with communication, it is important to remember the key skills of listening.
- Face the speaker and maintain eye contact. Even when the speaker isn’t looking at you, be sure to put distractions away and keep your attention on them.
- While it is important to maintain eye contact, keep it relaxed. There is no need to stare fixedly at them for the entire duration of a conversation.
- After putting physical distractions away, try not to focus on the speaker’s accent or speech mannerisms to the point that they become distractions.
- Also keep internal distractions at bay. Your internal dialogue of thoughts, feelings and biases can be as distracting as a computer screen when it comes to listening to someone. Keep an open mind.
- Don’t be a sentence-grabber. Even if you are listening to someone struggling to find the right words, let them maintain their train of thought and get to where they are trying to take you in the conversation.
- Listen to the words and try to paint a picture of what the speaker is saying. This may be a literal interpretation or an arrangement of abstract concepts. Your brain will do the work as long as you are alert and focused.
- Do not plan what you are going to say next. This derails your ability to effectively listen.
- Do not interrupt and impose your “solutions,” unless you are asked to provide one. Most of us can come to our own solutions through communication and being heard.
- Rather than interrupt to ask a clarifying question, wait for the speaker to pause. Remember to ask questions only to ensure understanding, not to shift the conversation to another topic.
Empathy is the heart and soul of good communication and listening. This is what makes having a conversation with another human meaningful.
- Step back and try to feel what the speaker is feeling.
- When you understand the speaker’s feelings, you are able to convey these feelings yourself through facial expression and words. This assures the speaker that they are being heard.
- When you empathize with your employees, customers, investors and shareholders, you are provided a window to see what you can do as the leader of your business to run your operation optimally.
- When these parties know that their voices matter, they will see that the goals of the business are not just to benefit the business owner, but all of the parties involved.
- Listening to the concerns of others and meeting them where they are, will ultimately make the business better for everyone.
Transparency is the clear, unhindered way that a person does business.
- Keep everything as simple and honest as possible. This demonstrates that the company is the kind of business that it wants people to think it is.
- Remember that, “transparency is assurance” and “less information means less certainty for investors.”
- Keep in mind that an “investor” does not always mean someone with a direct financial stake in a company. Customers, employees and communities all hold a stake in the way a company conducts itself.
Remembering these tips as a small business owner is huge. Over the next few weeks, we will go further into detail on each of these four skills to give you some real-life examples that could be applied to your day to day life as an entrepreneur!