“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” - George Bernard Shaw
It is hard to deny how important communication is for any leader, no matter their profession. In many cases, it will make or break their success. All too often, we have seen headlines where leaders have come under fire for hiccups or missteps in their area, but it doesn’t have to be this way. I shared the following in Digital Leadership:
You won’t find an effective leader who isn’t an effective communicator. Leaders who effectively communicate: listen intently, facilitate dialogue (hear, respond, add thoughts), ask questions, get to the point clearly and concisely, create an open environment for discussion, and employ a multifaceted approach. The best communicators focus on being present, consistent, and engaged in getting the right people the right information at the right time.
When it comes to crafting a strategy, it is always critical to think about the following prior to preparing any message or interaction:
- Why is this important to get across, and when?
- How will I convey the information?
- What will tell me if I have been successful?
The above questions provide an excellent foundation for effective communications. Below are the strategies that can harness these to ensure how you communicate has an impact.
Get the Message Across
While the above subheader might sound simple to implement in theory, the reality is that it can be a challenge at times. While developing the message is extremely important, so is the way that it is delivered or facilitated. By leveraging a situational approach, a leader can determine the best strategy to use that will have the most impact. Sometimes this might be a memo or email, while other times, it can be a phone call, handwritten note, or social media post that includes text, images, videos, or links. Different situations might call for active listening or the use of non-verbal keys. The bottom line is that getting the message across requires flexibility and an openness to various means at your disposal.
Knowing your audience is also about accepting the fact that you might not be the best person to communicate the message. Former Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski shared the following:
“Recognize that yours is not the only voice that your team wants or needs to hear, and be unselfish with your leadership. By allowing others to lead and by using their voices, you show that you are a stronger leader. Their voices can help you increase your team’s attention-span window and can often convey a message that resonates in a way that could never have come from the leader.”
Understand Your Audience
Just because you prefer a specific means of communication or technique doesn’t infer that your stakeholders do as well. The same can be true about the information that you feel is valuable to convey. I shared the following in Digital Leadership:
Just as teachers differentiate for a variety of learning styles in the classroom, it is important for schools to differentiate their communication efforts if we want true stakeholder partnerships between home, school, and the greater community. For school leaders, communication and community relations have been identified as one of the nine most important skills to master (Hoyle, English, & Steffy, 1998).
Your audience is comprised of different demographics and age groups. In the digital age, a multifaceted approach that meets stakeholders where they are at while engaging them in two-way communication is actively embraced. Popular tools such as Snapchat and Tik Tok are just as valuable, if not more so than Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. While social media should play a massive role in engaging your audience and getting the message across, leveraging a brandED mindset and empathetic lens is invaluable as it helps you create powerful relationships through communication pathways. You can rarely go wrong with stories that pull at different emotions. Tech is and never will be the end all be all.
Connect to Learning and School Culture
Whether it is getting information out, providing feedback, or educating your stakeholders, there needs to be a compelling why, clear how, and definitive what that leads to the message resonating with your audience. Effective leaders not only address concerns but also proudly share all that is being done to help learners succeed. While exceptions exist, you can rarely go wrong when you frame communications around learning and a vibrant school culture.
Impactful communication is a catalyst for meaningful change. In the words of Dr. Michelle Mazur, “When you start communicating to change people, you leave a lasting legacy. You profit from your impact, not in spite of it.”