the shape of leadership

Is Your Delivery Hitting the Mark?

Five communication habits that will boost your influence

Kent Ingle on June 11, 2018

There are only three places that remain in our society where oratory — the practice of speaking to a group for an extended period — is still the main mode of communication: academia, religious services and politics. Outside of those circles, the ways we communicate and convey our ideas are as diverse as our world.

So, why are many of us in the Church stuck on communicating one way?

It’s easy to convince ourselves that others like to receive information in ways that match our preferences and traditions. However, assuming another person is just like you seldom works in any relationship.

Whether you’re interacting with a co-worker, a member of your congregation, or a close relative, you must communicate in ways the other person will understand, receive and find meaningful.

If long, extended lecture settings are your favorite way to absorb information, don’t assume that’s the case for everyone else. In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret: It’s not.

Think about it. Even during evening news presentations, information often scrolls across the bottom of the screen, images and videos appear, and the background is typical of an active newsroom. Compared to newscasts from a few decades ago, it is much more dynamic. Why? Because people in today’s world consume information and media differently.

You have a message of eternal significance to share. You also have a responsibility to communicate it in a way that works. That means speaking to people where they are, in a way that hits the mark.

There are a few key reasons why communication may fail:

  • The presentation is difficult to follow or in a format the audience finds confusing or distracting.
  • The audience doesn’t perceive the information as relevant.
  • The communicator fails to gain trust or respect.
  • There is no personal application. (In a busy world, most people only have time for the things that can help them resolve a pressing need in their lives.)

Influence and Communication Complement Each Other

Every leader wants to influence others. If you’re not seeking to influence someone, you’re not leading. Engaging those around you and getting a group of people, however large or small, to move in the same direction is what leadership is all about.

Communication is how you connect with the people you want to lead. Communication involves disclosing or sharing ideas. The more connected I feel to your ideas, the greater affinity I have for you. The greater affinity I have for you or what you represent, the more likely you are to influence me.

It’s not rocket science, but it’s not necessarily easy either. Your position as a ministry leader doesn’t give you the ability to influence by default. That is something others must give you the ability to do.

Assuming another person is just like you seldom works in any relationship.

In the end, leadership is a constant balance and counterbalance between what you want others to do and what others need from you. The only way you achieve equilibrium is through clear, consistent and compelling communication.

Effective Communication Starts Here

Disciplines are the things you do consistently that become default actions over time. To achieve a disciplined life, you must have the ability to form good habits. Great communicators are disciplined. Here are some disciplined habits you can develop to improve your communication:

  1. Look for micro-moments. A series of smaller messages is often more effective than a long lecture. Jesus delivered sermons, but He also engaged in dialogue with individuals. Much of His teaching arose from everyday moments and personal encounters. Take time each day to participate in life-giving conversations and invest in relationships.
  2. Diversify how you communicate. Deliver a consistent message utilizing written, visual and experiential techniques.
  3. Create a platform for ongoing connection. Build a place online that people can visit in their personal time. Use it to reinforce the biblical ideas they already connect with and help them discover new ones.
  4. Employ listening techniques. Consider using online surveys, statistics, clicks and videos to find out what your audience connects with and what they don’t.
  5. Provide value on a consistent basis. Establish a publishing schedule for your written communication, podcast, video blog, etc. If you don’t communicate consistently, people will stop paying attention.

How you accomplish these things will depend on your preferences and the expectations of those you are trying to reach. I probably wouldn’t use Snapchat to engage an audience of senior adults. But I also wouldn’t rely on sermons alone to reach a millennial audience.

The leader must own the responsibility to communicate in ways that lead to connection — and then transfer that connection into influence.

Influence is not something that happens immediately. You must cultivate it over time. That means constantly building toward where you want to go.

Communication is a skillset you must always refine. Good communicators adapt their habits and techniques over time. Talk to the people you want to influence. Stay informed about the habits they are letting go of and the new ones they are forming, especially when it comes to how they engage with their world.

Businesses keep up with cultural changes so they will know how to connect with consumers. A great example is the e-commerce industry. Retailers know people are likely to make purchase decisions on a 5-inch screen that fits in a pocket. That means companies must optimize the experience for the device consumers are most likely to use.

Effective businesses no longer create platforms that work well only on desktop computers. They build websites using the powerful tools in their offices. Then they test them with their phones, down the street at the local coffee shop.

That’s what you need to do. Find ways to reach people where they are. Try something different. Test a new approach. And trust the Holy Spirit with the results.

It’s going to feel awkward at first. But it will help you remember what it’s like to feel uncomfortable and anxious because something is unfamiliar — and that will make it easier to relate to those who are approaching faith for the first time.

Trying something new to reach someone new is where you’ll discover your best ideas on how to evolve your communication habits to maximize your potential for Kingdom influence.


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