Dale Ludwig - Jun 28, 2017

Communicate Like a Leader

Communication is an Essential Leadership Skill

I recently watched a TED talk by Simon Sinek called “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe.” His talk motivated me to buy his latest book, Leaders Eat Last. In both the talk and the book Sinek defines effective leadership in ways that reminded me that the work we do at Turpin is not only about helping people communicate more effectively and efficiently. It’s also about helping them become leaders.

Sinek says that good leaders make people feel safe within the organization. This feeling of safety leads to trust, cooperation, open dialogue, and the desire to look out for everyone’s interests, not just our own. When people feel safe, the business and everyone in it wins.

It's About How You Make People Feel

This struck a chord with me because we also talk a lot about how presenters, trainers, and facilitators should make people feel. For example, we teach that

  • Meeting participants need to feel that the conversation taking place is a good use of their time and that the meeting facilitator is competent and trustworthy.
  • Learners in a workshop need to feel that the trainer is working hard to make whatever is presented relevant and useful to them.
  • People listening to a presentation need to feel that the presenter is genuinely open and responsive to their needs and perspectives.

When these feelings are not present, people will shut down, check out, and refuse to give their best to the process taking place.

As Sinek points out, feelings of trust and safety cannot be dictated. You can’t simply say, “Trust me” and expect people to do it. You can’t expect people to feel comfortable asking questions simply by asking them to be. These feelings are the result of how genuinely a leader demonstrates interest and empathy.

Trust Must Be Earned

When we help clients manage their meetings, presentations, and training sessions more effectively, we emphasize the fact that trust must be earned with every interaction. Every time you’re at the front of the room, you’re assuming a leadership role and must consider how people are feeling about what’s happening. This includes making sure that the process itself—whether presentation, meeting or training session—feels efficient and relevant for the people participating in it.

Here are some of the ways you can do that:

  • As you prepare for your next presentation, think about how your team will receive the information you’re delivering. Are they eager to receive it? Unaware that it’s important to them? Are they resistant? Let this insight determine how you set context for the presentation. Acknowledge their feelings, especially if they’re negative. Many times this will feel risky, but as Sinek says, leaders lead by taking risk first.
  • During your next meeting, focus on engaging people in a conversation, not just delivering a message. Make them feel part of the process. This takes effort because you have to get out of your head and be fully in the moment with the people you’re talking to. Once you’re there, though, it’s easy to let their responses guide you.
  • If you’re delivering training, pay attention to what learners are feeling about the process. Are they confused, frustrated or intimidated? If they are, it’s your job to make them feel safe enough to express those feelings. Without knowing how they feel, it’s impossible to react and adjust appropriately.

The next time you’re leading a meeting or a training session, think of yourself as a leader. Doing so will help you earn the trust and goodwill of the people you work with.

Written by Dale Ludwig

Dale Ludwig has a Ph.D. in Communication and, prior to Turpin, taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He founded Turpin Communication in 1992 with the mission to provide the best presentation and facilitation skills training possible. Since then he has worked to do just that. In addition to being one of Turpin’s lead instructors, he also serves as our Chief Learning Architect when tailoring learning engagements for our clients. Dale is a frequent blogger and the co-author of the book "The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined." He’s excited about his latest book, also co-authored with Greg Owen-Boger, "Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide to Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning."