Microphone in a stand

Communicating clearly doesn’t always need a mic Photo by Bogomil Mihaylov on Unsplash












When you’re at the head of any organisation, how you communicate is one of the most important skills to have. In fact, we’d go as far to say not being able to communicate effectively could cost you your job.

You might think this is a bit far-fetched, but there’s plenty of examples where it’s happened, with perhaps the best-known being Steve Jobs who was fired from Apple because of his abrasive style, particularly when communicating with people.

So, what steps can you take to communicate more clearly as a CEO or leader in an organisation?

The first thing to do is never assume people will know what you’re talking about. You need to add context and make sure your audience, whether it’s one person or a whole group, understand your message. As well as context think about the tone of your delivery and how it could be interpreted. The simplest message can be totally mis-understood if it’s delivered in a way that makes it sounds you’re accusing someone of something, or they have no idea why you’re talking about it.

If you’re communicating a written message, flesh out your email, blog post or whatever form it takes with a bit of context, and then tell your story. If you’re doing it in person, use your whole body to communicate. Body-language is crucial – appearing hesitant and not looking confident when talking means your audience won’t believe you’re sincere.

Think about the level of your voice, what you’re doing with your hands and look people in the eye to engage and show how confident you are.

You also need to think about who you’re talking to. A board of directors or group of senior directors won’t need as much context to get the message, whereas you might need to explain things at a much higher level to a more general audience.

Every action you take as a CEO is interpreted by people within and outside your organisation, so thinking about how your words and deeds are interpreted needs to be looked at as part of the gig. You need to be aware of this at all times, especially when you’re dealing with the big issues. And if you ever have to have anything to do with the media, it’s even more important to focus on communicating clearly as it’s easy to be misconstrued or not appear as serious as you should be.

What a lot of leaders forget is about communication being more than words and body language. It’s about everything from behaviour and attitude to imagery and design. A lot of CEOs don’t see the importance in a lot of these and think of them as abstract rather than integral to the whole package of their organisation communicates.

Here’s where you can a difference. Treating these touchpoints just as you do your own words or actions means you’ll see them like your customers do – as a cohesive brand rather than a series of different bits and pieces chucked together. Do this properly and people will start to naturally associate you with the organisation whenever they see you or hear your name.

It’s a bit like being the lead singer in a band, but sometimes having to be the guitarist, bass-player and drummer too.

So, think Context, confidence, clarity and customers when communicating as a CEO and you won’t go far wrong.