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Read my lips: Five things you have to be able to say in business, and how to say them so that people pay attention

Strong leadership is about more than giving direction – it’s about asking the right questions and listening to the right people.

Read my lips: Five things you have to be able to say in business, and how to say them so that people pay attention

Business leaders make plenty of mistakes on their way up the corporate ladder, and one of the most common is not thinking through the message they’re sending.

More than simply entering a room and giving direction, it’s crucial to know who you’re talking to, how you can best deliver the message and, most importantly, when to listen.


There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to effective corporate communications, says Nicole Cullen, founder and director at Cullaborate.

The biggest mistake that leaders make is failing to give adequate consideration to the message they want to communicate and the best way to communicate it

Communication issues often result from problems with individual performance or organisational culture, adds Stephanie Thompson, principal at Insight Matters Corporate Psychology and Coaching.

Here are the five most powerful phrases great leaders use:
 

1. “What do you need from me to get this done?”

Effective communication is a process of consultation or negotiation, says Thompson. By framing the question like this you also avoid subtly stressful phrases such as “you need to…” or “you have to…” she adds.
 

2. “What else could you try?”

“Encourage people to be forthright,” says Cullen. By asking positive, open-ended questions such as this one, people will feel supported to speak up, resulting in a more engaged workforce and allowing all options to be explored.
 

3. “Can we make this more efficient?”

In the office environment, this question is particularly pertinent to emails. Before you send an email, consider who needs to be copied in, as well as whether a phone call or face-to-face conversation could be more effective.
 

4. “We need to make a change”

Workplace change frightens people, says Cullen, because of the uncertainty of job losses and organisational restructuring. “Get straight to the point when delivering bad or unsettling news, and don’t try to sugar coat the situation – rather, acknowledge the gravity of the news,” she says.
 

5. “You feel …”

One of the most effective communication tools any senior executive needs is the ability to listen actively and reflect it back to the speaker to demonstrate empathy and clarity. “Listening must be authentic, meaning that others’ concerns or alternative proposals are given adequate air time and genuine consideration,” says Thompson.

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