5 signs you’re not an influential communicator

If your colleagues don’t respond to your messages and balk at speaking up during meetings—or if they often interrupt you—it’s time to make adjustments.


With leadership comes responsibility.

As a leader you often gain respect and can wield influence—but that isn’t always the case.

A staggering number of leaders suffer illusory superiority—thinking they’re much more influential than they really are. In many cases, people aren’t just failing to exert the clout they need to drive change; they could be undermining or even sabotaging their own influence.

Concerned that your messages are missing the mark? Here are five signs your communication efforts are not resonating:

1. Colleagues aren’t acting, responding or following.

When leaders communicate to team members, they’re typically looking for an action or response. The proof of success lies in whether your employees are following your lead.

For example, are they acting on recommendations or advice you’ve given? Are they demonstrating a lack of engagement and productivity, doing minimal work to get by?

You might be communicating what’s required, but if the results aren’t there, the exercise is worthless. You aren’t showing the ability to influence.

Step back and review your own communications. If your colleagues don’t understand what you’re trying to say, they will struggle to act. Check your jargon, solidify your main points, and put employees at the front of your communication.

Consider the value your listeners will receive. Is it clear what actions you’re expecting as a result of your communication? Are you tailoring and personalizing your message to that individual or group of employees?

Find a trusted colleague to be your checkpoint. Continually request feedback on how you communicate. No one enjoys criticism, but critical feedback helps you evolve, grow and fine-tune vital leadership skills.

Finally, consider your delivery. Are you credible in the way you convey messages? Is your writing typo-free? When speaking, pay attention to how you stand, use body language and express enthusiasm.

2. Employees aren’t responding quickly, frequently—or at all.

Are your emails too long, poorly structured or just plain confusing? If you’re cramming multiple key points into one communique without clearly explaining the gist, employees will ignore you.

The growing millennial and Gen Z populations in the workplace are estimated to have attention spans of just six to eight seconds. Beyond that, everyone is busy. So, get straight to the point.

Also, don’t neglect face time or direct communication. Minimize the risk of miscommunication by picking up the phone or meeting someone in person.

3. Employees aren’t speaking up during meetings.

Communication is a two-way street.

If the only voice on the floor is yours, only your needs are met. Communicating a message that only focuses on your expectations will not influence anyone to act. Ask open-ended questions on different channels to spur dialogue and receive fresh insight.

Of course, not all employees are confident speaking publicly. Cater to introverts by offering different forums outside the meeting room, such as an email follow-up or designating a feedback space on your intranet.

4. Employees frequently interrupt or talk over you.

When people interrupt, it seems unprofessional or rude. It’s their issue, not ours, right?

Not necessarily. The blame is often on the speaker rather than the individual interrupting.

For example, have you taken too long to get to the point? Perhaps you don’t pause or allow time for your listeners to respond, engage or ask questions? Or is it difficult for your team to follow you and they’re interrupting for clarification?

The most influential communicators understand that persuasion often involves saying less—and listening more. Apply this principle, and adapt your communications to your listeners’ expectations. Pause to listen and give others time to speak.

If you get interrupted, view it as a good thing. Evaluate why they’ve interrupted. Is it a friendly reminder for you to get back on track, or is it an exhortation to get to the point?

If they’re asking for clarification, rephrase your words accordingly. Each interruption is an opportunity to learn and develop as a communicator.

5. Colleagues are checking out before you’ve made your key points.

You can’t influence anyone if you can’t deliver your message.

Time management in communication is essential, and it all comes down to preparation. If you plan, prepare and practice, you’ll engage your listeners and land your message.

Whatever message you’re about to deliver, establish the key points you want to get across and the actions you want your colleagues to take. Identify the needs of your listeners; home in on whatever they need to know to take action. Craft your message around these points.

Regardless of the medium, respect your listeners’ time.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of the follow-up. Even if it’s just an email of bullet points that highlight the major issues you want to convey, it’s a good idea to hammer home your message a second time—just in case they checked out the first time around.

Stacey Hanke is the founder of Stacey Hanke Inc. A version of this post first appeared on the Interact-Intranet blog.

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