As a leader, you must communicate, it may be to 30, 300, or 3,000, but there simply is no option.
How effective you are is up to you.
Some leaders are more gifted in communication than others, but great communication is never limited to only the superstars. You don’t have to be in the top-rated Ted Talk speakers to be a highly effective leader.
Here’s more encouraging news, regardless of the level of your natural talent, if you focus on intentional practice, you can improve. I list some tools and practices for improvement at the end of this post.
Former President Ronald Reagan was known as The Great Communicator. That title wasn’t an award; it was just true.
President Reagan was optimistic when he spoke, had a quick wit and sense of humor, gave hope, and had a deep belief in what he spoke about. He possessed a natural connection with people that allowed him to speak truth with folksy wisdom that captured young and old alike.
How about you, what distinguishes you as a communicator?
Before I take you through five helpful questions, I’d like to encourage you with three spiritual insights about your communication potential as a church leader:
1) The size of your stage doesn’t determine the size of your gift.
God may have chosen you for a smaller platform, but that does not limit your ability to develop your skill.
Don’t seek a larger stage; strive to develop your ability.
2) The size of your gift doesn’t determine the scope of your reach.
The power of prayer will always trump eloquence and skill. Your eternal impact can be greater than your skill when you bathe your communication in prayer.
3) The scope of your reach doesn’t determine the value of your ministry.
If you never speak to large crowds, you can still rock the gates of heaven with staggering stories of life change.
5 questions that provide insight to great communication:
1) Are you comfortable in your own skin?
The best communicators are at ease with who they are as a person. They don’t try to look, sound, or speak like other people. They are comfortable being themselves.
Great communicators are self-aware, genuine, and have found their own voice. Finding your voice is the combination of being yourself and using your unique style.
When you know your own voice, you can communicate with poise, confidence, and personal authority rather than insecurity.
Insecurity is the number one detractor of effective communication.
If the insecurity is minimal, it barely seeps through. That’s common and not an issue. If there is significant insecurity, it screams through your communication and makes it difficult for people to hear from you.
Insecurity in communication shows up in ways such as wanting people to like you more than respect you, lacking confidence about the content, wanting praise for being a good speaker more than wanting stories of life change, or trying to be funny to get a laugh rather than using humor to help land a point.
Security is developed through confidence in your identity in Christ, your calling to leadership, and self-awareness.
Be yourself and enjoy the art of communication. You don’t have to be perfect to be effective, being real wins every time.
2) Do you connect at a heart level?
All great communicators connect with people; their authenticity gains them an innate trust from the listeners.
Great communication is without pretense, which brings a higher level of heart connection.
Though your topic may be serious, a light-hearted approach and natural sense of humor will always help you connect. This allows you to engage the emotions of your listeners.
A good way to think of this is that you take God seriously, but you don’t take yourself so seriously.
Tell stories that reach people where they are. Appropriate levels of vulnerability will also help you connect as well as addressing relevant and current life issues.
3) Do you read the room quickly?
Knowing your audience is essential, but there’s more to it. Great communicators can sense if the people are engaged and responsive.
If you see that the room is not engaged, can you change your approach in the moment?
It might be as simple as slowing down and cutting content or something more complex, like adding a personal story on the fly to recapture the room.
The purpose of reading the room is always to maintain connection and put the people before your content. Your message is important, but if you lose the people, your content doesn’t matter.
The goal is not to fill in the blanks and finish the talk; it is to add value to and grow the people.
4) Do you make people think?
Jesus made people think; from the Pharisees and Roman leaders to his own beloved disciples, he challenged them with questions and made them think by telling stories in parable form.
His approach was simple but profound. For you and me, there is simply no substitute for substantial preparation.
We’ve addressed engaging the heart, the closely connected idea of causing someone to think is about engaging their mind. In most cases, this does not suggest a purely academic moment.
The idea is to create a practical and real-life tension, or dilemma, or choice, etc., that inspires toward a decision of some kind. This decision usually requires change.
5) Do you know how to land the plane?
This is the leadership moment, the moment that captures why you are teaching.
Be strong, clear, concise, and bold.
Don’t circle the runway when it’s time to land the plane. Know the point of your message and stick to it.
There are two questions that will help your message land in a way that makes a difference.
- What do you want each person to know?
- What do you want each person to do?
Here are some great tools and practices for improvement:
- Watch your “game film.” Study the videos of your communication. This practice is essential for growth. Pay attention to where you are strong and where you need to improve.
- Work with a communication coach. You can hire a professional, but candidly, there are coaches right in your church who could help you.
- Read a book such as Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently by John Maxwell.
I pray the Holy Spirit anoints and adds favor to your teaching!