Communication Skills for Top Leaders

October 31, 2019

Communication Skills for Top Leaders

Communication skills are vital for any professional in the workplace. However, top leaders are expected to be well versed in two specific areas of communication: persuasion and public speaking. 

Persuasion and Influence

People try to persuade others but they seldom succeed. It is difficult to persuade others as people are different with different mindsets. When you make any decision after weighing the pros and cons, you try to persuade yourself first.  When you want to decide with the help of others, you must persuade others. 

It is not an easy task to persuade others as people have different psychologies, mindsets, and attitudes that change from time to time. Therefore, it is essential to understand the psychology of the people to enable you to apply different strokes to different people to achieve your desired objectives. You must also understand various persuasion techniques to achieve your objectives. Hence, let us underscore how to persuade and influence to achieve personal, professional and social success. Here are some tools to persuade and influence others. 

  • Create trust and transparency in others. 
  • Be consistent with your commitments and beliefs to gain credibility from others. 
  • Avoid preconceived notions. 
  • Gather all facts about the issue from all sources to prepare thoroughly. Listen attentively and ask questions to clarify. It shows that you are a good listener and are ready to accommodate others’ views. 
  • Don’t get provoked. Be cool and composed. 
  • See the big picture. 
  • Ask questions. Empathize with others. Be flexible. 
  • Create common ground. 
  • Share your past achievements about how others have been benefitted from your ideas. 
  • Show the benefits others would get from your ideas.      
  • Iron out the differences. Tell them to look at commonalities, not differences. 
  • Create multiple strategies and solutions and shortlist the best. 
  • Be persistent. 
  • Create a win-win situation. 

You can bargain from the position of strength if others need you more than you need them.  Your bargaining power diminishes if you need them more than they need you. Hence, identify the scenario to influence others. 

When you want to succeed in life, you mirror and match others’ body posture, mood, and verbal style. Similarly, when you want to succeed as a negotiator, you must mirror and match others' body posture, mood, and verbal style. 

Many people are smart and intelligent but fail to communicate and persuade their ideas. They lack communication and persuasion skills. If you want to grow as a successful professional and leader, you must know the art and craft of persuasion and how to influence others. To summarize, both persuasion and influence are the skills essential for executives to work effectively in a complex global environment to excel as leaders. 

Public Speaking

Presentation skills are pivotal for all professionals to convey their ideas and insights and to market their products and services to their customers. These skills are required from top to bottom of a corporate ladder either to communicate within the organization or outside the organization. They are imperative in the workplace to present your ideas, insights, and viewpoints. It helps you showcase your strengths in the presence of all members.  

Many people have huge potential and knowledge but are scared of delivering their speeches in public places. It is for this reason several professional courses are offered to train and groom you as presenters and speakers. The presentation skills are an integral part of business communication as businesses must constantly communicate with their stakeholders including customers, suppliers, financial institutions, government agencies, and employees.  

Most managers and leaders are aware that public speaking is crucial to their career success. But they have innumerable apprehensions and anxieties. If they are persuaded that public speaking is like a simple speaking with only a difference of more people viewing them, listening to them and questioning them, it is easy to overcome their anxieties and apprehensions.  Billionaire investor Warren Buffett was initially terrified to speak in public places.  He overcame his nerves and improved his public speaking skills through practice.  

Some senior leaders and CEOs hire coaches to acquire public speaking skills. When you look at Mark Zuckerburg, the CEO of Facebook, he had inhibitions to speak in public places initially. Gradually he improved because he understood the significance of hiring a coach to improve his behavior. Similarly, many leaders understand the importance of acquiring public speaking skills to enhance their career prospects.

Most companies understand the importance of public speaking skills and conduct training programs regularly to enable their executives to communicate effectively with others. For instance, John Chambers, Cisco CEO, emphasizes public speaking and encourages their executives to ensure smooth communication within the organization. Ron Ricci, Cisco’s Vice President of Customer Experience Services, explains, “The world is changing so fast that your ability to keep up as a communicator requires constant reinforcement and feedback. For Chambers, a big part of feedback is not just how the presentation is delivered, but how the content is received. "It’s a barometer of whether we’re sticking to our ‘True North’ of being a customer-centric company.” 

If you want to succeed in your career, you must know how to write and speak well. They are the deciding factors in the current corporate world. Hence, acquire both writing and speaking skills to stand out from others.

Public speaking is a transferable skill that can be applied in any industry and sector irrespective of its size. Treat learning public speaking skills as an investment, not an expense. 

Note: This article is an adapted excerpt from Secrets of Successful Public Speaking: How to Become a Great Speaker.

The Authors: 

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D., is the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is the author of more than 45 books.