Calling All Leaders: What Does it Take to Be Heard?

No matter what organization or industry you are in, if you are a senior leader, organizations simply expect more from you. At the Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors Academy, Jim Endicott, President of Distinction Communication, Inc., explained that while many senior leaders are incredibly smart, it doesn’t mean they know how to lead. In fact, he said that you can be the smartest person in the room, but that doesn’t mean much if you are unable to inspire, motivate and challenge people. During his session, titled “The Art and Science of Leadership Communication,” he discussed what many leaders are missing and how they can be shaped in order to inform, inspire and influence.

He began with the four fatal flaws that leaders make. They think people:

  1.  “Understand what was communicated.” Many times, senior leaders spend a great deal of time and effort crafting the perfect communication points; however, when it comes time to disseminate that information to other employees, it’s likely that people just don’t understand.
  2.  “Agree with what was communicated.” Oftentimes, leaders have the role of changing or altering belief systems. Unfortunately, people will often disagree with what was communicated to them.
  3. “Care about what was communicated.” This is simple: people often don’t care.
  4. “Will take action.” If they don’t care about what was communicated, or maybe don’t understand, it’s highly unlikely they will take action.

There are three main channels to communicate, which I’ve outlined below:

1. Intellectual

  • People who target the intellect use facts to change hearts and minds. This is purely relying on facts and statistics, with a strong analytical focus to prove, inform or justify. These are usually left-brained people who use charts and graphs as supporting material.
  • One of the biggest challenges is short-term memory. Think about when you studied for a test. One day later, you’d already forgotten most of the information; one month later, almost all of that information had been forgotten. Further, many people will question those facts as to whether they hold weight. For example, who put this data together? Is it accurate?

2.  Emotional

  • Emotional communication relies on stories, discussion and other sensory-rich information. Usually right-brained people use information that others can relate to.
  • Appealing to the emotional side of people allows you to not only make points more quickly, but usually allows you to bypass defenses and foster decision-making.
    3) Symbolic

Symbolic communication inspires and aligns beliefs, as well as motivates people to act solely based on an image. But, there is a meaning far beyond the image.

Think about the yin yang symbol, or other religious symbols. These stand for something bigger and greater than our imagination allows us to access.

A quote that Jim included in his presentation resonated with me: “The best leaders…almost without exception and at every level, are master users of stories and symbols.”

In order to be an effective communicator and leader, it’s important to be adaptive, have a high degree of situational awareness, constantly sharpen your communication skills, and make something that is very complex simple.

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