Being an effective communicator is essential to the leadership of a growing business. Getting to the company’s core message, and expressing that in a clear and consistent way to stakeholders, can be simple yet is rarely easy.
JuntoInstructor, Brian Burkhart, recently led the JuntoClass on Leadership Communications and walked us through steps to communicate more effectively.
DON’T BE SELFISH
Brian stressed the importance of putting the audience first, and not falling prey to thinking the easiest way for us to communicate our message is the best way for others to understand it. All too often leaders assume that an employee knows industry jargon or that a customer has the time to read through paragraphs of content on the company’s website. Brian urged JuntoApprentices to simplify their messages by considering three important questions:
- What do you want your audience to know?
- How do you want them to feel?
- What do you want them to do?
Filtering content through these three questions, whether spoken or written, is an easy first step to sending a clearer message with the receiver in mind.
DELIVER IT AUTHENTICALLY OR NOT AT ALL
After highlighting the importance of being “selfless” in our communication, Brian then told the Apprentices the most necessary thing in communication is, in his words, to “Be Yourself!” This can seem slightly contradictory to being self-less, and in Class there were several questions like, “Brian, so you’re telling me to be selfless and to focus on being myself. How do you do both?”
Brian’s lesson here is that it comes down to delivery. The content and message must have the listener in mind, but a leader has to deliver it in his/her own genuine way or the entire effort is wasted. Customers know when they are being sold to, investors know when they're being told a line of B.S., and employees know when performance feedback isn’t sincere. Clear communication loses its potency if the leader does not deliver it in an authentic way. Therefore, “Be Yourself” is the most important rule in leadership communications, and has the power to derail the entire message, if not followed without fail.
WHY BEFORE WHAT
Echoing Simon Sinek, Brian urged the Class to “Start with Why” and focus on communicating WHY the company exists over WHAT it does. Brian repeatedly reminded the Apprentices that, “You want to attract people who believe what you believe.” Customers, employees, Twitter followers, strategic partners - it doesn’t matter the role or relationship with the business. A leader wants to align the company with people who believe ardently in the same vision they do.
CONSISTENCY AS A TOOL FOR GROWTH
Lastly, Brian hit on the importance of using these steps in all company communication. Do the company website, slide decks, email signature lines, and voicemail greetings all communicate the same core message and company identity? If a customer talks to the company’s Sales Intern, CEO, and Operations Manager do they get a consistent story? If the same essential message shows up everywhere, anyone who ever interacts with the company gets the same clear picture. A consistent and aligned company message is easier to recognize and share with others, allowing for a faster and smoother path to growth.
All of these communication tips are simple, yet implementing them can be a challenge. For startup founders, it’s important to own this. If the leaders don’t take on the task of communicating clearly what the company is all about, will customers, future hires, and potential investors spend the time and energy necessary to get it? In the words of Brian Burkhart, “Don’t be selfish.” Founders own the company, and must own the message as well.