Guest Column | September 27, 2017

Leaders: When You Talk, Is Anybody Listening? How to Become an Influential Communicator

By Dr. Liz Bywater

Liz Bywater

Andrew is a C-level Fortune 500 healthcare leader. An incredibly smart man, he is creative, passionate, dedicated to his organization, and absolutely driven to help patients live better lives.

Like so many of today’s executives, Andrew has had to master the art of influence. Leading in a highly matrixed organization, he’s had to learn how to inspire peers, managers, indirect reports, and business partners — guiding them to see the vision, follow his lead, and work collaboratively to get results.

It hasn’t come naturally. Often the fastest thinker in the room, Andrew still sometimes misses cues that he’s leaving people behind. In his excitement about new ideas and initiatives, he can talk too fast, jump among topics, and arrive too quickly at key decisions without ensuring sufficient engagement. To be a consistently influential leader, he reminds himself daily to slow down.

Amid today’s rapid-fire business climate and the ever-changing healthcare landscape, it’s not unusual for leaders like Andrew to move quickly. Fast is fine, but are you going too fast, too often? Are you sure your leadership style isn’t leaving people in the dust or pushing them away? How can you be sure you are approaching others and communicating in a way that builds trust, strengthens relationships, conveys a clear and compelling message, and drives true collaboration?

Here’s the advice I gave Andrew. It’s helped him become a dramatically more impactful leader.

Stop. Before you write your next email, take another call, start an important conversation with a colleague, or lead your next Town Hall, take a strategic pause. Use the time to reflect on what you are trying to. Ask yourself:

  • Why am I writing this email, making this call, or sitting down with this colleague?
  • What is the desired outcome of this communication?
  • Have I chosen the most effective venue and timing to convey my message?
  • How does this stakeholder (or team or organization) typically respond to my communications? Do I usually get the result I want?
  • In which ways have I been most successful in communicating to inspire action and accelerate results?

Use these reflections as you hone your approach. Thoughtfully plan how you will craft your next written communication. Figure out how to best engage your team in robust, if challenging, dialogue. Dedicate time to designing your next Town Hall to inspire, excite and engage your organization.

By taking a strategic approach to communication, you will immediately become a more influential leader. You will build bridges. You will prevent misunderstandings. You will align around objectives, strategy and execution. And you will get things done – better, faster, with fewer mistakes and a lot less stress. You’ll be the kind leader who truly inspires others and achieves extraordinary results.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the fourth edition of Dr. Liz on Leadership! Each month, you will discover my latest insights, tools and advice, designed to help you and your organization thrive in a rapidly changing healthcare environment. Share with others who will benefit. Let me know what is top of mind for you, and I will address your most pressing questions in future articles. You can reach me directly:

For additional tools to excel amid nonstop demands and constant change, check out my new book, Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed and Thrive in a 24/7 World. Available for pre-order today.