Have you recently misread your audience or failed to engage your team during a meeting? Have you experienced blank stares, silence, apathy and disinterest? There are times when leaders fail to inspire their employees, and the risk to the organization is a loss of momentum which, if prolonged, could translate into poor financial results.  When employees start to disconnect, it’s time to examine what has gone wrong. Beginning with examining your leadership style, and in particular, the effectiveness of your communications, is a great place to start.

Ask yourself how often you commit any of the following communication crimes:

·    Talk over others

·    Insist on having the last word

·    Over-use the word “I”

·    Have emotional outbursts

·    Over-use email in lieu of interpersonal meetings

·    Avoid engaging in difficult conversations

All of these traits are problematic. Talking over others is equivalent to talking too much and has the effect of shutting people down. People who overuse “I” in their communications are not true leaders but talkers, and they fail time and again to develop the potential of others because they see the world as centering entirely on them. Emotional outbursts are only effective in alienating your team members and building barriers to trust in your organization. Using email excessively and avoiding difficult conversations deprives an organization of dialogue, the exchange of ideas, and leveraging the potential and talents of individuals.

The traits listed above are examples of communication de-railers. They must be eliminated from your communications and replaced with strategic, thoughtful, and positive language and habits that are designed to maximize opportunities. With a little thought and planning, a difficult conversation can be transformed into a growth opportunity.  Here are some steps you can take to get your communication back on track:

1.  Assess your strengths, and leverage them to help you achieve your objectives

2.  Identify your weaknesses and communication de-railers and strive to overcome them

3.  Assess the needs of your team members and create a plan for interacting with them based on their individual needs and values

4.  Practice one-on-one communication by delivering certain messages that will benefit from tone, body language, and an interpersonal experience

5.  Encourage the use of team-wide assessments so that employees have opportunities to communicate as effectively with one another as they would with you

Ultimately, the process begins with you. As a leader, it is up to you to recognize the need for change, and to implement it. Ask yourself if you have a communication success plan for yourself, and for your organization. If you do not, take the necessary steps to create one.