Making a Good Impression

When delivering an important message, a leader can follow a simple checklist for creating the right impression with the audience. Once the basic content and structure of the message is decided, shifting focus toward creating the right impression is a big part of ensuring that the message is well received and leads to prompt action. The following are three elements that you can add to your own checklist: channel, tone and observable behaviours. 1. Choose the right channel Leaders have an understandable tendency to use email to communicate some of their most important messages. The reasons are obvious – instant circulation, immediate impact and consistency across recipients. But that may not be enough when you have to communicate something really significant. Before you deliver a crucial message to your team, ask yourself whether the idea is to inform, engage or persuade. Which method is the audience likely to prefer? Email and other electronic tools make it faster to share information (inform). However, if you need to impress your team as a leader, it is best to communicate in person and follow up, if necessary, with something in writing (engage / persuade). In a large organisation, where face-to-face meeting with every employee is not possible, you could consider a webcast as an option. They are easy to arrange, cost-effective and more personal than email messages.

2. Choose the right tone To strike the right tone when communicating, every leader has to walk a fine line. At one end of the spectrum, you risk sounding too “macro”, falsely optimistic or too assertive. At the other, you can come across as obsessed with details, worried, or uninspiring. Either perception can lead to unwanted consequences. Just a few ill-chosen words or poorly phrased comments can result in a loss of support and trust, and can lead to inaction. The daily challenge for leaders at every level in an organisation is to steer clear of extremes and stay in the “credibility zone”. To do this, you must ask yourself what you want the message to achieve and what you think the audience wants to hear. The answers to these questions will help you communicate more effectively.

3. Choose the right observable behaviours The way subordinates perceive you directly affects their willingness to co-operate or go the extra mile. If they see you as unprofessional, you already face an uphill battle when attempting to exert authority. However if you come across as competent and knowledgeable, the team is much more likely to work towards the goals you set. These perceptions do not have to be 100 percent correct, but they certainly count. A leader must be sure to create the right impression and should be aware that people are forming perceptions by observing seven specific things:

posture, movement, gestures, facial expressions, vocal delivery, choice of words and attire.

It pays to take a moment or two to think about how you want to be perceived. Once you have done that, consider any changes to make in these areas to have more effective style of leadership.