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Heck yes! We love to see that too Maya Angelou. And no-one did it better than you. Poet and activist Angelou wrote and said many words that have resonated and roused people, cementing her place in the history books as one of the most influential public figures of the 21st century as a result. Her superpower? Inspiring communication.
Communication is absolutely vital for effective leadership, because senior leadership isn’t just about making high-level decisions and setting strategic direction; it’s about inspiring and guiding your team toward a common goal.
Leaders have followers who are looking to you for direction. It’s essential as a leader that you give your followers clarity and confidence in what you’re sharing with them.
Inspiring communications can convince the unconvincible, they can give and help to maintain motivation. They can, with no word of exaggeration, change the world.
While Angelou clearly had a natural talent for communication, it’s not something you have to be born with – we can all learn how to be inspiring communicators.
As a leader, there may be many opportunities available to inspire, from the small confines of a team meeting, to the international stage of a Ted talk. Here are a few places that you might want to consider your communications wisely and where you can make a big difference if you get it right.
You have the attention of your team most regularly in team meetings, so, top tip: try to keep them engaging and energetic. Whether there’s good news or bad news to discuss, keep the enthusiasm going with energy and plenty of opportunities for two-way interaction. No-one likes just being talked at!
In the boardroom is where you’re most likely to have to convince your peers. This is a place to most convincingly ooze confidence and have absolute clarity in your message. Be prepared to put your big pants on.
Your marketing teams are no doubt nipping at your heels daily to ‘get in front of a camera’. That’s because as a leader, you’re in the best position to deliver powerful messages, whether internally on intranets, or externally in press releases and on video platforms. Embrace the opportunity and remember…it’s not about what you look like, it’s the way in which you deliver your message that matters. A core Ginger value is ‘courage’ and acting before you feel completely ready – video opportunities are the perfect place to practice this!
More and more, people are understanding the impact of communicating effectively on social media. The very term ‘social media influencer’ says it all. It’s an important platform, providing an opportunity to share authentically to a wide audience.
Wherever you are communicating, whether to a local audience or on the global stage, there are a common set of principles that will help you to make an impact…
One of the reasons that Angelou’s messages are so rousing, is her use of storytelling. Storytelling is a powerful tool for senior leaders, and here’s why:
Stories create an emotional connection with the audience. They tap into the imaginations and experiences of others allowing people to feel and understand the situation better.
Stories are inspirational and can provide a source of motivation by demonstrating resilience, sharing achievements or providing valuable lessons to inspire action.
Stories are written to be told. In communicating with stories, we gift the passing on of information that can spread quickly from one person to the next. That’s a powerful tool for a leader.
Another way that Angelou is able to connect with her audience is by communicating sincerely. In her writing she opens up her innermost thoughts to offer heartfelt wisdom. Sincerity builds trust, because it demonstrates empathy, compassion, and a willingness to connect on a personal level. It opens up the lines of effective communication, building stronger relationships, and encouraging the same level of honesty back.
Sincerity might feel like a hard thing to channel, particularly if you’re a natural introvert. But it’s really just about tapping into your honestly held beliefs and sharing them in an open way, while leaving room for compassion.
You can communicate sincerely by:
Don’t try to imitate anyone else’s style. You are uniquely fabulous!
Sharing your own story can help build rapport. While it’s important not to overshare, which can lead to a loss of respect or trust, being vulnerable with your audience can build connection, particularly with those who have been through your experience. Find out more about striking the right balance of vulnerability in our blog.
Eye contact is one of the many innate tools we have to assess someone’s credibility. There are whole scientific methods used to determine the honesty of people just through their eyes. Making eye contact builds connection by effectively saying to people ‘Hey, you can see me, and I can see you’.
Have you heard of the phrase ‘fake it til you make it?’ While this might sound like it’s the flipside of sincerity, it’s actually just about setting a goal and pursuing it confidently.
Confidence is such an important part of communication because it instils a sense of trust in the listener. Imagine you’re a driving instructor and you’re unsure of whether to go at a junction or not – is that going to make the student put their foot to the pedal? Absolutely not! But if you can deliver an instruction with confidence, those who lack it gain confidence in what you’re saying.
Confidence is all about presentation – how you carry your look, how you use your body and how you speak all come into it. In our high-impact communications course and Public Speaking Fundamentals course, we teach leaders the importance of body language, how to talk and how to present yourself confidently.
Here are a few confidence tips to get you started:
Another great tool for confident communication is humour. It can be extremely disarming. In a stuffy room full of suits, if you can make people laugh, you can gain their attention and put them at ease. In fact, opening a talk with a touch of humour can be very effective.
Stretching your comfort zone may seem like an obscure way to communicate with confidence, but we encourage leaders to be fearless while staying true to their personality. Go to the limits of your personality and display your bravery in all its beautiful colours.
If you lack confidence, practice and then practice some more. The more familiar you become with what you’re communicating – whether in front of a crowd, or in the boardroom – the more confident you’ll become.
Part of confident communication, is the ability to get straight to the point. In polite society we include a lot of niceties when we communicate “Hi there, how are you?” “Isn’t the weather great” etc. While it’s nice to converse, getting the point across succinctly can be much more impactful. A direct thought-provoking statement delivered as an opening line can make people sit up and listen and get the cogs moving right away.
“On average we live for 75 years: that’s 75 springs, 75 summers, 75 autumns and 75 winters…that’s not a lot.”
You can read more about how to start a speech with power and confidence in our blog, here.
While keynote speeches, Ted-style talks and Executive powows are powerful forums in which to inspire, remember that you communicate 24 hours a day. Every interaction and behaviour matters. Your team will take confidence from your words, your behaviours and your actions
Here are a few ways that you can use your every-day communications to inspire:
Conscious listening is about making a conscious effort, not just to listen, but to hear your team members. Providing the forums for open communication and really taking it on board can keep the fires of inspiration burning. It helps to encourage your team to be open about their thoughts, ideas, their barriers and challenges that play a big part in the effectiveness of your organisation.
Learning is part of being human, and part of learning is making mistakes. Giving (and receiving) feedback with clarity, kindness and encouragement can be inspiring and help to drive a culture of continuous improvement and learning.
Clarity about your vision, goals, and strategies leaves no room for dubiety. Ever been in a meeting and not known what an acronym stands for…but not spoken up? That’s you and EVERYONE! If there’s unclear information, it’s hard for your team to stand behind it, so avoid jargon and avoid assuming that everyone knows what you’re talking about.
Leading through inspiring communication creates a positive, inclusive, and typically higher-performing workplace and can help to spread your message widely.