There is no arguing that 2021 begins amid two major events – the ongoing global pandemic and the implementation of new Brexit regulations. Your current feeling will be dependent on your own set of circumstances, and how these two issues are impacting your personal and professional life. Do you have a positive outlook on things or are you fearing the worst? Perhaps you are somewhere in the middle or bouncing between both extremes.

Whatever the case, in challenging times we all need two critical things – good decision making and excellent communication. Both are still very important in easier times, but in general, the environment tends to be more forgiving. When your ‘back is against the wall’, decision making and communication must be good.

During these times, effective leaders will step up and earn their corn.

I am sure everyone has experienced both sides of the coin, with opinions and examples of effective and ineffective leadership. Ultimately, colleagues rely upon clear communication to overcome obstacles and weather the storm during rough periods.

In January’s blog series, we will be sharing practical ideas and examples that will help you become an effective communicator during these challenging times and beyond, beginning with three elements you can use as a simple framework to build on and explore in future articles.

Connection

So many words and images – important messages – are wasted for lack of connection. If people aren’t really listening, it doesn’t matter how good the message is, as it won’t achieve its goal.

Leaders must connect with their audience to be successful. Instead of achieving this through a clever technique of carefully crafted appeals to emotion, you should work to build a genuine connection of empathy and involvement. Rallying cries of ‘we’re all in this together’ will do little to connect with your audience if inside they feel differently.

Be involved. Be compassionate. Be honest. Care for people and the cause and demonstrate this continually in small actions as well as on the grand stage.

When people feel connected to their leaders and trust they are for them and with them, incredible exploits of shared endeavour are possible.

Clarity

How many times have you come away from a conversation, a presentation, a speech or a meeting and struggled to describe the key message or main action agreed?

When giving a taxi driver directions on where to go, you wouldn’t offer a general, vague response like ‘head north and take me out of the city’, and the same goes when sharing plans with your colleagues.

Leaders must communicate clearly and that begins with having complete certainty on what information they want to get across and why. It may sound obvious, but it is a test that’s often failed.

What do you want people to know? What do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do? Clear communication from connected leaders will generate longstanding commitment, as the audience invest themselves in the instructions given.

Commitment

The goal of communication is almost always some form of commitment. Commitment to a course of action, to a way of behaving and to a certain idea or belief.

The outcome of your communication should be a strong sense of shared responsibility to act. Leaders should model this first and foremost by committing themselves to becoming a role model that leads by example.

Where people see a strong commitment by their (connected) leaders to the standards they have also been asked to adopt, they are likely to be inspired to follow, giving their best efforts to reach the agreed goal.

Conversely, any whiff of ‘double standards’ erodes trust and derails commitment.

Regularly revisit all three of these elements – connection, clarity and commitment – to ensure lasting impact from your communication. As George Bernard Shaw stated, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place.”

It’s not a one-off event but an ongoing, continuous series of micro-events, interspersed with occasional major ones. Every email, every virtual team meeting, each online post matters.