I see it all the time — young business leaders full of big visions, passion, energy, focus and grit, yet stumble along when it comes to communicating. They know every detail of their business and can dream up revolutionary new concepts in a blink. But even the greatest ideas can flounder if they aren’t communicated effectively.
Business leadership is about communications, with employees, clients, investors, colleagues, and even the media, since anyone who gets to the top will find themselves in the spotlight at some point. But if they can’t effectively express what their vision and plan of attack is, they won’t stay at the top for long.
Think of all the great business leaders in the world and I almost guarantee that they are all excellent communicators. If they have an idea or plan, they know exactly how to communicate it to the world, and today’s young innovators must do the same. Strong social media skills may be a resume booster, but they don’t translate into good communication skills.
But these are skills that aren’t generally taught in school and this Millennial generation has grown up speaking more with their thumbs than with their voices. They are dexterous with communication technology, but they aren’t necessarily skilled at diplomacy, negotiation, and relationship building.
I recently worked with one such Millennial who sold his first company at 19 and is now ramping up his second start-up at twenty-three. And like all young entrepreneurs I’ve coached, his goal was the same: to make a difference in the world and lead companies that care more about the exchange of ideas than the bottom line.
In other words, whatever they do, they want to do it with purpose, and determined to make it happen. But it takes a lot of skill to convince a group of people that you’re worthy of their time and attention or to stand up at an expo and convince an audience that your product is going to change their lives.
Of course it will. That’s why you’re up there. But communication isn’t only about verbal communications – eye contact, gestures, tone of voice – are just as important. And as the first generation in history to have been immersed in technology throughout their lives, Millennials are realizing the significant impact they have on the way they communicate as leaders.
At 80 million strong, Millennials now make up the largest share of the U.S. workforce, with more than half (53 percent) aspiring to become the leader or most senior executive within their current organization. And not in 15 or 20 years like previous generations, but right now.
That’s a lot of CEOs on the rise and a lot of trends they will no doubt redefine. But to succeed at anything you have to have more than just good instincts and execution. You have to be an effective communicator. It’s the key to success, and what will turn the emerging young workers of today into the innovating leaders of tomorrow.
So, what can they do? Master these 10 key principles and that 80 million strong will be even stronger:
1. REMEMBER THAT YOU’RE ALWAYS “ON.”
You’re always on, no matter where you are. Everyone is always watching you and you should be prepared in everything you do. Great communicators are always prepared for the unknown, so be that person.
2. BE PRESENT.
Great communicators are present for the people they are interacting with. It keeps the channel open for people to feel heard and understood. So close the laptop, turn off the phone, and take those ear buds out of your ears. Be with the other person/people fully and give them all of your attention.
3. FIND YOUR OWN VOICE.
Use language that’s distinctly yours and let your own values come through when you’re communicating. People respect authenticity, so speak with your own voice. But leave “dude” out of it.
4. GET SPECIFIC.
You may have the greatest ideas in the company, but no will know if you can’t communicate them clearly, whether that’s over email, in meetings, on Skype, or one-on-one. Great communicators are able to sell the simplicity of their ideas and they do it quickly and concisely. So get to the point and make it a good point.
5. COMMAND WITH YOUR BODY.
Remember all those times your mom nagged you to sit up straight? She didn’t say it because she was bored. A lot of communication is nonverbal and posture matters. So sit or stand up straight with your shoulders back. Look people in the eye. Don’t fidget. Keep your hands out of your pockets. What your body says speaks volumes and can allow you to command a room. And make your mom proud.
6. MASTER DIPLOMACY.
You have to negotiate for almost everything in business, and the more diplomatic you are, the more successful you’ll be. But negotiating effectively is more than just using the right words; it requires timing, a knowledge of the right facts and the ability to remain confident and diplomatic throughout the process. Negotiating is about building relationships not burning bridges on the way out of the conference room.
7. STRIVE TO BE A GREAT PRESENTER.
Good presenters tend to be the motivators and movers and shakers of any organization. They are sought after to present a product or service to clients, the media or trade shows, and often get that executive seat faster. But it isn’t easy. It requires a lot of practice, even for the best of them. That’s why Steve Jobs hired a public speaking coach. He knew the value of good presentation skills, and obviously paid off.
8. BE RELATABLE.
You know those people who try to impress everyone with all those statistics and lectures? Don’t be one of them. When you are speaking in a meeting or to a large audience, you must be relatable or everyone will tune you out. So think dialogue, not monologue, and know when to dial it up, dial it down, and dial it off — (mostly down and off).
9. LEARN THE ART OF PERSUASION.
Some people are so incredibly persuasive. They have a level of confidence that won’t allow them to give up. But more importantly, they know you can never persuade anyone who’s not interested in what you’re saying. From sales pitches to why you expect a pay increase, the art of persuasion lies in communicating to others what they really care about, which (hint) isn’t you.
10. LISTEN MORE.
In this age of instant communication, everyone is in such a rush to communicate what’s on their mind that they fail to realize everything to be gained from the minds of others. So remember the power of silence. It won’t guarantee you’ll be the next Elon Musk, but it will ensure you won’t be removed from everyone’s contact list.
Allen Carrier is the Founder and CEO of Carrier Media Company and an award-winning journalist and media strategist. He has worked with many of the world’s top business leaders, including a few U.S. presidents. Follow his latest insights and tips on Twitter @CarrierMediaCo. And if you would like to improve your communications skills, visit the website here.