Persuasive Leadership: Effective Communication

This is the last of a three-part series this month that focuses on leadership in persuasive communication through one-on-one interactions. The first article is hereThe second article is here.

In talking with human resource officers, COOs, CEOs and other corporate leaders about areas needing improvement within their organizations, communication almost always bubbles up.

This need is supported in a 2018 Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. study, where about 60 percent of companies say they don’t have a long-term internal communication strategy. Strikingly, though, about half said they wanted to make improving leadership communication a priority.

So organizations see the need, yet often fail to act. And then there are those leaders that don’t value effective communication who will refer to it as a waste of time, an effort to put a focus on “feelings” instead of productivity and ultimately profits. Or they may refer to communication as a soft skill unimportant to a company’s bottom line. 

Poor communication with your team members can lead to attrition and difficulty attracting top talent. And given that replacing a worker can cost a company 33 percent of that worker’s annual salary, it will cost you a lot (both in finance and company morale) for unhappy team members to walk away.

However, as the team leader you can change all of this. And it’s not just good for the people on your team; it’s also good for business. 

You have the power to change the direction of your organization through effective 1:1 communication. You just need the tools to get you there. 

For all the complexities of communication with others, all communication falls into one of four buckets: 

  • Verbal communication
  • Nonverbal communication (including but not limited to eye contact, facial expressions and gestures, posture, body orientation, body language
    • Proximity (space and distance)
    • Para-linguistic (accent, pitch, volume, speech rate, modulation, and fluency.
    • Touch
    • Silence
    • Personal appearance
  • Written communication
  • Visual communication

That’s it. You have these four buckets of communication mediums to communicate 1:1 with your team members. 

We’re going to focus on one: verbal communication. 

In the 1952 publication of Effective Public Relations, Scott Cutlip and Allen Center first introduced the 7 Cs of effective communication. Since its publication, these 7 Cs have become the gold standard for effective, persuasive communication with those around you. 

Here are the 7 Cs:

  1. Clarity
  2. Completeness
  3. Correctness
  4. Conciseness
  5. Concreteness
  6. Coherence
  7. Courtesy

Now, with these 7 Cs in focus, there are practical ways you can create space for 1:1 communication that will help you persuade those with whom you work.  Let’s look at a list of those ways: 

  • Preparing before the conversation
  • Being open
  • Showing respect
  • Exhibiting compassion and empathy
  • Actively listening (including not thinking of your next question instead of being in that moment)
  • Having a solution mindset
  • Prioritizing subject and topic over emotion
  • Always seeking common ground, mutual goals, shared purpose
  • Ensuring both sides have equal respect, ability to share thoughts and feelings, and equal opportunities to be heard
  • Avoiding distractions

Having first focused on communication enablers, I do think it important to your success to also talk through items that block communication. Take a look at this list:

  • Accusing
  • Judging
  • Insulting
  • Using sarcasm
  • Globalizing (using words like “always” and “never”)
  • Threatening or ordering
  • Interrupting 

In addition there are physical barriers like time, environment, comfort, and noise. There are emotional barriers like fear, distrust, and uncertainty.  

Finally, with communication enablers in place and a willingness to avoid communication blockers, there’s a path to persuasion: 

  • Relate 
  • Move from relating to solving 
  • When solving offer very specific direction
  • Within this direction, use concrete language 
  • Provide space for your listener to process and ask questions
  • Empower that listener to take actions need to help you accomplish your vision as their own

Once again, we revisit President Johnson. LBJ was attuned to the language that others used. However, collaborative efforts were less of his wheelhouse. In fact, LBJ more often steamrolled those around him during discussions, pressing them to defend their ideas and suggesting they were infantile. The very next day, he would sometimes take their position as his own. In grilling them, he wanted to find who firmly believed what they said and who was flaky in their beliefs. LBJ’s methods in this department will not translate well into the corporate world, but in the throes of Vietnam it made decision-making easier for the president.

If you’re not getting the support of your team you need, don’t have great team camaraderie, or just not hitting your targets, examine your ability to persuade your team through 1:1 communication with you—their leader. I’ve given you the tools to get there. 



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Why persuasion communication if the only force you will ever need. 

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