In our daily lives we constancy assess how our bosses and our leaders come across to us. Their impact and persuasiveness have a great bearing on whether we listen to them and follow their ideas and expectations.
When looking at leaders to be selected for new job roles or for the purpose of developing and improving their leadership skills, we consider the requirements of the coveted new role: it steers our assessment programme.
One of the first steps in any talent measurement, whether for selection purposes or with a view to professional development, is to establish what is actually required.
A through and fit-for-purpose job description will specify in specific, concrete terms what the person needs to be able to do. (Often, job descriptions are lofty, abstract philosophical epitomes that are so vague and highbrow that they don’t add much value: send me any examples you spot!).
A leader may be required to the next long-term strategy, for instance. They may be expected to create a marketing strategy. They may need to build a plan on how to ensure targets are achieved, or a policy about how to reward or hold their staff to account for their performance or (lack of) accomplishments.
They may need to get a team of international sales managers on board to deliver on the next sales drive. They may need to acquire consent from the authorities to launch a new product. They may need to canvass support for a merger or an acquisition.
Fundamental behaviours for effective leaders
Having assessed – or passed judgement on – many hundreds of leaders’ performance, having scored them on their leadership skills, some fundamental, essential skills and characteristics clearly stand out, these behaviours show up time and time again as crucial to perceived effectiveness and impact.
No matter what the leader’s job description says, master the following three competencies and you will do so much better in any situation in which you are judged by others on your leadership impact, your personal credibility, and your potential for continued success.
Leaders who have come out on top in any leadership assessment I’ve designed, been involved in or studied, show an indisputable ability to convey a clear message. They convey their viewpoint, their conclusions, analysis or story in such a way that people find it clear.
Clear to understand, clear enough to remember the main gist of, clear enough to repeat to others, to share. Clear enough for others to take on board and really buy in to.
Leaders are more successful if they can convince others of the validity of their argument. Besides validity, the argument lands better with the audience if it is based on accurate and truthful information and brought with social proof to back it up and give it added credibility.
Even more convincing, if less directly or covertly so, is when the message is conveyed without ignoring opposing views, interests or alternatives. This links to generally being respectful of others’ views and showing appreciation for those (and them…).
The point here is that doing these things as part of convincing others (having valid arguments, being aware of others’ views, and back up with social proof) is not as easy as it sounds.
Many leaders, experienced ones even, easily forget these techniques when they’re in ‘full flow’. It takes time and effort to self-monitor and ensure that these characteristics are applied to your message and your style of leading.
The third key aspect that is surprisingly often given insufficient attention by leaders whilst they know they are being judged on their communication skills, including their ability to be straightforward and forthright, is this: being concise. Be to the point.
Even when time is scarce it seems hard for people to really appreciate that they are not as adept as they’d want to be at getting to the crux of an issue and, secondly, conveying some sense of urgency.
They may then beat around the bush, take too long to talk about side-issues or irrelevant small talk, or not be strong enough to take the bull by horns and ‘spit it out’.
If you want to up your game, try the above three things: be clear, be convincing and be to the point.
Doing the above will, clearly, work wonders for you.
Jan de Jonge is a business psychologist and managing director of People Business Psychology Ltd, helping organisations select the best candidates for specified job roles by using reliable, valid and robust methods of assessing personality, behaviour, ability, motivation, and knowledge. www.peoplebusinesspsychology.com