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Best of CoBiz: Smart leaders sweat the small stuff

Derek Murphy //August 30, 2013//

Best of CoBiz: Smart leaders sweat the small stuff

Derek Murphy //August 30, 2013//

‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’. We’ve all heard the phrase, right? In theory, it’s a nice concept; just not for those in leadership positions. Why, you ask?

As leaders, we must realize that, like it or not, we are being watched. Closely. The nuances of our behavior – eye contact, or lack thereof; change in tone of voice; one-word emails; hurling a computer monitor, etc. Your direct reports and team members don’t miss much, and as a result all subtle acts and non-verbal cues can be taken the wrong way. Sometimes, you send unintentional signals, and other times, people find messages that just weren’t sent.

Sure, it can be frustrating, but you wanted to be a leader. Did you think it would be easy?

So, being watched is unavoidable. It’s how we handle ourselves that makes all the difference. And I’d argue that it all boils down to solid communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal. Leaders spend most of the day communicating with people, and those without sound communication skills find themselves at a disadvantage.

Here are some tips to follow to develop your communication skills:

• Plan your important communications. Jot down the key points you want to make. Then, sequence them, placing your main points first, followed by the supporting reasons. Do not bury your main points in the middle of a paragraph.

• To confirm that your message was clearly stated, ask your listeners to summarize what you have just said. Take this opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings; make note of what they were and how you can prevent similar misunderstandings in the future.

• To improve your presentation skills, consider joining Toastmasters, or take a public speaking or acting class. Practice your presentation in front of a mirror. Ask people for feedback about your presentation.

These tips are by no means rocket science, just simple reminders that can go a long way. I keep several of these tips in my Outlook calendar, so I’m forced to quickly read them once a week.

Improving your communication skills doesn’t mean employees won’t still find ways to misconstrue what you say or the gestures you make. However, it can help you become more aware of how you carry yourself in the workplace. The more you are comfortable in your own communication and mannerisms, the more relaxed people will be in their day-to-day interactions with you.