If I had to name a single all-purpose instrument of leadership, it would be communication.

John W. Gardner

Leadership rises and falls on communication. A great deal of your success depends on your ability to think critically, creatively and to communicate your intentions and decisions to others. People see your actions, not your intent. This is why SMART communicating is extremely important.

When does effective communication occur? When the receiver’s idea matches the sender’s intended idea. The ability to communicate clearly—to get your intent and ideas across so that others understand your message and act on it—is one of the primary qualities of leadership. As a leader, you must communicate clearly—both verbally and in written form.

Communicating critical information in a clear fashion is an important skill to reach a shared understanding of issues and solutions. Communication builds trust, cooperation, cohesion, and shared understanding. Here are some tips to help you communicate more effectively.

The 7 C’s of Communication

  • Clear. Focus your message. It is your responsibility as the communicator to clarify or to focus your message so the receiver is absolutely certain on what he or she is supposed to do or know.
  • Concise. Get to the point. Don’t use 10 words when 5 will do. Don’t be long-winded or beat around the bust. It ends up becoming a distraction and can add to the confusion. Being concise saves you and the receiver time.
  • Consistent. Nothing frustrates team members more than leaders who give confusing information and can’t make up their minds. Consistency of communication gives predictability and cultivates an environment of trust.
  • Concrete. Concrete words draw pictures in your receiver’s brain so what you are communicating isn’t vague. For example “A good customer” vs “A 30-year-old female who is college-educated, lives in an urban area, and is a repeat customer who has brought many referrals.”
  • Courteous. Be respectful and professional. How you convey the message is often more important than what the message is. Don’t denigrate or be condescending. Even constructive feedback needs to be done professionally. You want the receiver to be in a receptive mindset.
  • Correct. Before passing on information, verify that it is correct and accurate. Otherwise, you are just passing on rumors and gossip. Especially when it comes to written communication, double-check your spelling and grammar. You are judged by the accurateness of your communication and it will either help you add or lose credibility.
  • Consideration. Breakthrough the noise by thinking in terms of the person you are talking to. Use their terms of reference. Ask for feedback to ensure the receiver is getting your intended message. If necessary, revise your message. Eliminate possible barriers or distractions.

Other Communication Tips

  • Put your Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF). What is the point of your message? The point is the bottom line of your message. Tell the receiver the point of your message within the first 10 seconds of you opening your mouth. Most audiences (receivers) are impatient. They want you to get to the point before they get distracted.
  • Use Simple Words. Great communicators use simple words. Save impressive, 50-cent words for your English papers. You need to be clear, complete, and concise when communicating ideas, intentions, and decisions to subordinates. Given the choice between a simple word and a long word—and given there’s no difference in the meaning of the two words—use the simple word.
  • Watch Your Body Language. Studies show that the verbal component of a face-to-face conversation is less than 35 percent and that over 65 percent of communication is done non-verbally. In other words, how you communicate and your body language can have more impact than what you are verbally communicating.
  • Listen Actively. Communication goes both ways, it is important that you are able to convey your message and be able to listen.

Communication is an art. But, like all art, communication has an underlying structure with basic techniques. Anyone can learn the basic techniques for effective, concise communication. The key is to continue improving your communication skills. Utilize these tips to ensure you are communicating in an effective way, get feedback from others, then repeat!