Our work at The Latimer Group is all about helping our clients build strong and powerful communication skills. And to do that effectively, we have to be able to help them assess two things: current strengths and weaknesses, AND a path towards improvement. One without the other just isn’t that helpful. Skill development, in any endeavor, requires both the current state assessment and a path towards a better future state.
When we map out what a possible future state looks like, we discuss three levels of communication success, each with specific skills that can be mapped. Here is a quick primer on how to think about your own skills:
- Professional Level Skill. At this level, you communicate well, and (here is the most important descriptor) clearly. You have honed your message so that your audience can follow it, and remember the key points. Your slides (if you have some) don’t get in the way. Your delivery doesn’t distract. In other words, your communication skills are good enough that you are allowing your audience to HEAR your message. Many people struggle to communicate at this level, because of a lack of preparation or thought into what is most important to discuss, or because of a flawed approach to slides and delivery. But the bottom line here is that your message is clear, and your audience can HEAR you.
- Leadership Level Skill. At this level, you achieve more than just the clarity of Professional Level Skill. In order to communicate at a Leadership Level, you also need to connect with your audience. You have prepared for them, and their needs, their questions, their potential objections. In other words, you cause them to care. This is a big leap from Professional Level. Clarity is great. Allowing your audience to hear you is great. Eliminating distractions is great. But it is a whole different level to then prepare and speak in such a way that you connect with the audience and cause them to care. Think about it this way. You can communicate with me in a clear way, but just because I understand your point doesn’t mean I will connect to it or care at all. Connection requires a much higher level of preparation and skill.
- Executive Level Skill. At this level, clarity is assumed. And connection has also been achieved. Now, to communicate at the highest level, you are able to take your audience beyond simply caring. Now you are able to cause them to act. You have become a student of how decisions get made, and what the specific decision making triggers will be. Your communication skills cause action. In our experience at The Latimer Group, this level means that your content is prepared with your audience in mind. You know your audience well. You have anticipated their questions and objections. And you communicate with a presence that inspires confidence. You use story and examples make your audience feel what you want them to feel. You have total command of the situation, the room, your message, everything.
We love simplicity at The Latimer Group. And we love the simplicity of this model. Professional Level communication allows your audience to hear you. Leadership Level communication causes your audience to care about your message. Executive Level communication causes your audience to act on your request or recommendation.
Communicating at any of these three levels puts you in rare company. Trust me… we see lots of people who struggle to communicate even at the Professional Level. But regardless of where you are, we think it is healthy to always be thinking about skill development, and how to map a plan that allows you to progress towards the highest levels.