Communication techniques in the spotlight

Veronica Allardice

Veronica is one of the founders of Theatre of Leadership, which combines voice, speech and performance training with leadership development approaches to break new ground in preparing inspirational leaders and communicators for today’s media savvy and constantly challenging business world.

A survey conducted by the Australian Financial Review> with some of Australia’s senior business decision makers last year identified communication as the most important skill for leaders as they grapple with huge challenges created by an increasingly technologically savvy, global, fast changing business environment.

With that in mind, here are our five leadership communication tips for CMOs:

1. Grow your personal presence on the corporate stage How is it that some people attract our attention by their very presence? Something about them fixes our interest and holds our attention. We are drawn to them. Great presence keeps us paying attention. It sustains our fascination and creates a positive expectation.

As a leader your presence is unique. It comes from within. It starts with an inner state. There is a lot we don’t know about the alchemy of presence, but presence is teachable. We do know some techniques that can amplify it, thanks to our theatre training.

People read a composite picture of you – this includes the way you look, sound, move, the words you use, your facial expressions, your attitude and energy levels. In the first seven to nine seconds, we set off a chain of chemical reactions in others ranging from confidence, reassurance to fear and foreboding. In less than 90 seconds people decide whether to withdraw, reject, or trust us enough to engage with us. To be a great leader, you need to work on your presence.

2. Be inspiring

All leadership is a form of theatre. It is a social act. As a leader, you are centre stage. People want you to be authentic, dynamic, uplifting, interesting, trustworthy, confident and, above all, inspiring. Every leadership interaction offers the opportunity to transport people from the realm of self-interest and ‘the ordinary’ into the realm of possibility and the ‘extraordinary’. Leaders help define dreams that people (and businesses) can live into. As the drama of change plays out on our workplace stages, leaders without empathy, the ability to inspire, improvisational skills and a well-honed repertoire of leadership styles to suit different occasions, will struggle to bring about best performance in themselves and in others.

3. Your voice really does matter

Make no mistake, your voice and how you use it plays a powerful role in the emotional judgments people make about your personality, authority, trustworthiness and credibility at both an individual and company level. Your voice affects how people absorb, retain and are persuaded by your messages. It attracts peoples' attention and helps them keep tuned into us.

As a leader, you also need to consider your leadership voice from another perspective. What do you stand for? What makes you distinctive? What do people associate you with? As a leader in your field, what is your take on things? In other words, have you found your voice? Does it stand out? Is it unique?

Despite the pervasiveness of communication technologies, our voices clearly remain of paramount importance to us in our everyday expression and connection with others. We should never underestimate the power of our vocal delivery and vocal tone to attract or repel others to us, nor should we underplay the importance of who we are and what we speak for as leaders.

4.The future belongs to the makers of meaning

Today we are all drowning in information. Businesses and individuals are engaged in a battle for attention, meaning and relevance. Great leaders are meaning makers and the future belongs to them. They win the war for attention. They connect the dots; they see the links between multiple, complex and disparate ideas and construct arresting storylines or narratives to convey new meaning for people and businesses. Making meaning is an essential skill for leaders at any level. It is OK to develop the art of speaking in sound bites but leadership via contrived spin leads nowhere and leaves people scratching the surface looking for sustenance.

5. Learn to use energy

As a leader the way you orchestrate your energy is vital. This will vary according to the demands of the situation, your role, your personal preferences and particular strengths. The secret of energy is to know which kind is appropriate in which situation - passive or active, yin or yang - analytical, reflective, nurturing, driving or inspirational. By being aware of these different energies one is better able to decide consciously which energy to use in any given circumstance.

From our experience leaders do not often use a full range of energies either artfully or with effectiveness in order to fuel change efforts or inspire confidence and trust. Often leaders get stuck in one or two energy fields. They overplay the ‘good administrator’ energy of calm, cool and rational or they become the relentless driver or ‘warrior’ type focused on winning at all costs. If overused no energy is effective. Leaders also need to use a combination of nurturing and inspirational energy for a balanced style. The leaders that move us, inspire us and win our confidence and trust demonstrate the ability to effortlessly move through these different energy states. They release the best in us.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia or take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia.

Tags: Leadership strategies, CMO role

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