Nowadays, businesses and organizations have understood that people with high emotional intelligence and resourceful in their communication skills are best suited for leadership positions. The Havard Gazette states that social skills are more valuable for leadership roles that technical or scientific knowledge. Mainly because in order to achieve excellence, you need a committed working team with well-understood goals; and a leader able to make the most of every team player in benefit of the whole.
As a business and technology consultant, I’ve been helping leaders develop their communication skills for some years now. Throughout my experience I realized that most of the communication between business leaders and team members happens in meeting rooms (or virtual meeting rooms) were a presentation is displayed in a screen and the leader makes a monologue over it. This technique has been so impregnated in corporate environments that it has become the defacto way of making team meetings. If you have been to one, you have been to all of them, so needless to say that the technique really is ineffective. And now, there are overworked business buzzwords around the typical presentation meeting that even Jeff Bezos and his MEMO meetings have become popular.
But the reality is that public speaking is an art of centuries, where people with real charisma and developed soft skills were able to transmit a concise message that drives action, emotion and generated purpose (Nancy Duarte has a great TED about this topic). In this post, I’m compiling 3 hacks that every business leader could meet and prepare for any team meeting. With or without PowerPoint, with or without memorandum, the trick here is in the public speaking skill.
1. Leaders Drive Action – Make Actionable Statements
Every leader needs to encourage its team to deliver results. Be it in business or not, when a team of people is working together, the only result outcome acceptable is a measurable result. Prepare your meeting with the actions you want your team to take. And I’m writing about actions, not goals or objectives. In my experience, goals are generally known by a team (ie: achieve a project milestone, reach a certain amount of revenue, deliver a certain amount of goods, etc.). Goals are the measurable result that will allow knowing if an action was achieved to the desired result. The action itself is the sequence of steps that need to be taken by the team. There is no shame on going over steps like third graders, the simples you explain the actions, the better the team will follow. State the set of actions in a level of details that is easy to understand. These actions and goals can be captured in a document, report or slide of a presentation, using some form of timeline template that is appropriate for the purpose.
2. Leaders Provide Insights – Show your team the whole picture
Being part of a team is not only thrived by the sense of belonging or purpose. There must be a clear insight into the way the team is working towards objectives and how does it fit in the bigger picture of the organization (or even community). In the hard science of teamwork, Alex Pendlan explains that providing visibility not only in the actionable space of the team but also its contribution to a bigger part enhances the commitment and improves efficiency over the required actions. Unless you are working on a super-secret military device, it is important that leaders show how the team is placed in the overall corporate strategy, and the important role it plays for a brighter future. I’m playing with the positive reinforcement here, but if the conditions are meant to be negative, the team also needs to know the impact their actions generate.
3. Leaders Promote Collective Thinking – Ask thought-provoking questions
Part of being a leader is to make your team challenge your thoughts and decisions. Collective thinking is not a democracy, is a technique for analyzing scenarios as a team, for the benefit of the whole, with different inputs of different talents. Hidden among your team members minds, there are always great ideas that can empower the collective work. A bulletproof technique for making those ideas arise and appear is to ask your team thought-provoking questions. Make them be part of the solution or current challenge and provide means for them to explore those ideas with the backup of their teammates. It is important that you moderate this exercise wisely. This is not an opinion panel or poll, it is a space for communicating answers to a question that impacts on the team activities.
Developing soft skills for leadership is an everyday task. Nobody has all the required skills for managing all the situations, and people management pushes our boundaries all the time. The three hacks mentioned before are just useful advice, and you will need to work on them in order to use them naturally. Leading people is a wonderful responsibility if you take seriously there the main purpose is the development of the other, and its contribution to the team, rather than the achievement of specific goals to attain at some point of time.