As a leader, know your audience

As any sales and marketing expert knows, one of the keys to success is “knowing your audience.” The same goes with communication, whether it’s person-to-person or if you’re addressing your team or the entire company.

  • Who is you audience?
  • What needs does your audience have in relation to what it is you are trying to communicate? For example, if your company is growing, “What’s in it for them? How will they be part of that growth? How will they benefit?” If there’s a new initiative underway or a new project, how will jobs be affected? What about schedules and vacation time? Conversely, if your company is struggling, how might that struggle affect members in your audience?
  • As a result of your audience hearing your message, what do you want them to do? What actions do you want them to take (or not take)?
  • Where can your audience go for more information?

Companies large and small often have to move fast to keep pace with their competitors or adapt to changes in the marketplace. It’s all part of doing business in the digital media age. And while we may be able to communicate faster and faster, what about the quality of that communication? How do we know if and when we are being heard . . . or if what we’re saying (or writing) is simply falling on deaf ears?

As a business leader, whether you’re a senior executive for a Fortune 500 organization, the CEO of a lean start-up, or a busy entrepreneur, what you say matters—as does who you say it to and how you say it. People look to you to lead—they look to you to steer the company ship—and they look to you to keep them informed and engaged and motivated.

  • What happens when what you say doesn’t come across as intended?
  • What happens when you fail to say anything?
  • How can you be sure your partners, direct reports, team members, and employees are all hearing and understanding your message?

Much in the same way people have preferences when it comes to learning (some are hands-on, others prefer books and theory), people have different communication preferences. Some people are extroverts; some are introverts. Some respond to emotional arguments, while others are swayed by facts and figures. Most land somewhere in between. (You can learn more about personality types at www.myersbriggs.org.)

Importantly, there’s truly no right way or wrong way to communicate. There’s no preferred method. But as a business leader, it’s incumbent on you to know your style as well as the style of your employees, especially those in your inner circle or on your leadership team. By knowing your style and its characteristics, as well as the styles of those around you, and once you realize that messaging and tactics need to change depending on who you’re talking to, you can and will become a better communicator.

  • When you speak or write, are you able to be direct but not domineering? There is a fine line between directness and being bossy. Similarly, there is a fine line between being too indirect and coming across as wishy-washy or insincere.
  • Do you give your people an opportunity to lend their voices to the conversation? Are they encouraged to have input—to ask questions or comment on what you say or write? How do you ensure members of your audience that they are being heard?
  • When questions arise, or new information surfaces, are you good at clarifying what you say in order to avoid misunderstandings and provide clear direction?
  • Do you actively listen to others, whether they agree or disagree with you, and use what you hear to alter or improve follow-up messaging and tactics?
  • Do you provide regular forums (online, in-person, or in writing) where employees can go to get latest information and updates about a particular issue important to them and ask questions?
Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen!

The speed of life is no excuse for poor communication at work or at home. Communication is often critical to retaining key employees, maintaining productivity and morale during difficult times, and providing a clear vision for the future. As a leader, or a spouse, parent, sibling, or friend, successful communication is a responsibility. Communicate well and you will avoid confusion, misunderstandings, and conflict. Communicate well and you will develop allies rather than enemies; you will build relationships rather than burn bridges.

What stories can you share about how communication has impacted your business, a project, a timeline, or relationship? What lessons were learned?

Members of the Barrel O’Monkeyz community want to know.

Paul June is King Monkey of BARREL O’MONKEYZ, a full-service digital media and marketing group specializing in more creativity, ideas, and fun for active lifestyle consumer products, sports marketing, and brands in San Diego and Southern California.