Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading a new book by Kevin Murray, Chairman at Good Relations Group, about leadership communications. It’s called “Communicate to Inspire – A Guide for Leaders” and builds on his previous book of more than 60 interviews with organisational leaders (reviewed here).
In his latest book Kevin explores how leadership has changed in the digitally-connected world where transparency is far greater than ever before. He moves from how this affects leadership generally towards how the communication skills of leaders must be more developed so that they can lead successfully.
His approach puts an understanding of emotion and aspects of neuroscience at the core of great leadership communication. This is a refreshing change from some of the more cliche-ridden texts on leadership communication. Kevin’s analysis goes behind what good communication looks like to understand more about why good communication actually works.
There are two strong themes that emerge for me from Kevin’s analysis and models for effective leadership communications: the value of listening and the importance of storytelling.
Listening is an important skills for leaders to master and use regularly. Kevin explains why this is the case and also looks at the other signals that leaders can use, deliberately and inadvertently, to influence people they work with. I like his suggestion of doing a “signal audit” to make sure that you’re aware of the signals that leadership teams give to the rest of the organisation – how behaviours are affecting the way things happen.
Storytelling in leadership communications is a theme that featured in Kevin’s previous book – indeed it was stuffed full of good leadership communication stories. In Communicate to Inspire he looks at stories in more detail and explains why stories work in ways that rational, fact-stuffed presentations don’t, how stories are constructed and where to get genuine and meaningful stories from.
This section of the book particularly resonated with me. In my experience the most successful leader communicators are those that have the breadth of communication skills to vary the way they communicate to the needs of a particular audience. We’re conditioned to make fact-based arguments and presentations, but while this may work for some audiences, it overlooks that people often think in stories, gossip and anecdotes.
If we learn to tap into this natural predilection towards story-based content, our communications can achieve results that pure fact-based content can’t. As Kevin says:
Stories have an emotional power to persuade that gives them the edge over pure logic.
The book ends by referring back to examples from the interviews with leaders and using them as short anecdotes that reinforce the key thrust of Kevin’s manifesto for better leadership communication.
It’s very rare that I read a business book that I get so much from as I did when reading Communicate to Inspire.
Kevin balances some action-focussed theories and models with just the right amount of stories and case studies to make this an interesting read with plenty of practical steps for improving your personal leadership skills.
In fact, I’ve made a mental note to come back and re-read it in a couple of months time as I’m sure I will have forgotten some of the things I’ve learnt this time around!
Disclosure: Free review copy supplied
This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at www.simonwakeman.com.