A timely reminder that better communication must be top of your agenda in 2014 if you want to be successful

There are all kinds of leaders, because there are all kinds of people. The difference is, with leaders, it’s more obvious some are much better than others. Because there are generally accepted standards leaders can be measured against, you can quickly see the good and the bad – but what about the great majority, who sit somewhere in the middle? Helping get the most out of the middle is the quickest way to turn a mediocre leader into a mentor. It’s also the simplest way to take an okay company and make it a great one!

In my career, I’ve worked under and alongside a broad spectrum of leaders. The most obvious difference between them has been their varied skills in communication. I’ve learned from those that communicate well, and those that could communicate better. Forbes contributor Mike Myatt says “It is simply impossible to become a great leader without being a great communicator.”

The problem is many people incorrectly use management and leadership interchangeably. A more appropriate distinction is, mangers manage things, and leaders inspire people. Too many managers don’t understand this when they are promoted and therein lies the issue. Regardless of the length of your tenure, how connected you are, or even how impressive your IQ score is, if you can’t communicate well, you can’t lead as you ought.

New Year’s Resolution number one – You won’t avoid tough conversations: This happens too often. Good leaders encourage conversations. It allows you to organically shape direction, not abruptly interrupt it. You could say, a bad leader is not a leader at all. I’d argue however a bad leader could indeed be someone that leads people in the wrong direction. This is certainly a tough conversation you want to have as soon as you see it happening.

New Year’s Resolution number two – You will map influencers: You’ll often hear your PR agency talk about mapping external influencers, but it’s just as important to do it internally so your energy is exerted in the right places for maximum effect. By tapping into the right people you’re acknowledging you aren’t there to tell the whole story yourself – you start it, and let other people breathe life into it. Having a map also means you never forget to involve someone, and you subsequently mitigate the risk of any resentment building – a potentially potent cultural corruptor.

New Year’s Resolution number three – You’ll be mindful ‘listening’ is 50% of communication: Sometimes it’s what you don’t say that is important. Good leaders listen first. The trick is picking your moment to speak so you don’t stifle creativity or innovation. Social intelligence is a critical quality of any leader.

New Year’s Resolution number four – You will audit your communication: If there ever was a classic cycle, it is communication. It can be a negative spiral, or a transcendent path to positivity. Remember auditing your communication is as important as the changes you communicate about. You need to measure and calibrate your communication – the tools and processes that help foster it. Accountability is large part of this, so start a ‘communication counsel’. It’s a great way to practically review the positive or negative trends in your organisation.

There’s a wise proverb that says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” But, a vision does little if you can’t communicate it effectively. It’s a good thing to remember as we kick off a new year.

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

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