Scott Kelly spent 20 years as a NASA astronaut. During that time, he spent 520 days in space, 340 of them consecutively on the International Space Station. He reaped numerous benefits from that experience, one of which was effective communication. This came into play with astronauts from other countries, support personnel on the ground, and even the public at large.
As he told the Harvard Business Review in 2017, he had to adapt to the situation. If there was an emergency – a fire, for instance – he obviously had to be direct and forceful. If he was working in the close quarters of the ISS with someone from a foreign land, he had to be more diplomatic. Moreover, fellow astronaut Cady Coleman encouraged him to share his experiences with the public “because it’s their space program,” he said. “They’re the taxpayers.”
Kelly’s experience should serve as a lesson for every business leader – communication skills are essential. While teams or organizations are not working in the cozy confines of the ISS, the takeway is for everyone to be on the same page and progress in the same direction. This is simply not possible if leaders do not communicate effectively.
Gartner noted in 2019 that companies had more than doubled their investment in leadership communications training over the previous five years, and according to Grammarly, effective communication on the part of those at the top of the org chart establishes a vision, minimizes confusion, provides motivation and helps save time. In short, it makes an operation more engaged and efficient. Such communication can be one-on-one or with an entire team. It can also be through various channels – phone, email, text, social media, etc.
The importance of communication has never been greater than it is now, as the pandemic begins to wane. Never before has remote work been so prevalent and never before have the lines of communication been stretched further. The best leaders are successful in bridging that gap.
This also speaks to the greater goal of having emotionally intelligent leaders – i.e., those who are self-aware, self-motivated, self-regulating, empathetic and socially skilled. Such leaders tend to foster creativity and risk-taking, the result being that the workforce is galvanized, and the workplace becomes a dynamic, productive place.
The lesson for business leaders, then, is this: Be genuine. Be direct. Be yourself. But always, always, always work to build bridges between you and your team. That is how you can truly become the best version of yourself, and how your employees can do the same.