How to become a better leader

Rich Hein

What's the best way to improve your communication skills? According to our experts the items below are examples of a few ways to improve your communicative prowess.

Practice, Practice, Practice - If you want to practice verbal communications outside the office, try Toastmasters or an acting class. If the classroom setting is where you do your best learning, then check out schools in your area, colleges and universities offer public speaking courses as well.

Consider Who You're Talking To - "A long time ago, when I started out in engineering, I had this problem of overly detailed technical explanations. An exasperated senior manager once told me - "I am asking you for the time, and you are telling me how to build a watch," says Burns. As an IT leader you need to speak several different languages, and need to be able to translate complex technical jargon into digestible bits for people in the business and other areas of a company. This is often a major stumbling block to new tech leaders.

Work with an Expert - Expert help is available in all areas from expert individuals and companies that specialize in coaching people in better communication techniques. "They work like fitness trainers in a gym and they'll transform you into an effective communicator," says Burns.

Become a Better Listener
As Stephen R. Covey once said, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." Most of us have dealt with colleagues or managers who don't hear a word they have heard or may think they know it all. For anyone in business, feeling like your voice isn't being heard is a motivational killer. Here's what our experts had to say on how a manager can learn to become a better listener.

Stop thinking that you have the best or a better answer. When you do this you start thinking about your answer and not theirs. Keep an open mind and listen.

Remind yourself how important it is for an employee or a colleague to know how much you value what they have to say.

Don't Interrupt. Sometimes we may know or think we know what someone else is going to say before they finish the sentence. Let them finish it anyway. Let those around you express themselves completely, and then pause before responding. Don't cut people off.

Engage them by asking open ended questions, like, "Tell me more about the reporting package," and allow them to elaborate on the topic.

And of course make eye-contact, lean-in and ignore the distractions around you. If you can't fully focus then move the conversation somewhere more quiet and appropriate.

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