Mastering the art of communication

Welcome back to Leader Talk! In episode 55 we spoke to the amazing Sara Batalha, CEO of Media Training Worldwide (MTW) Portugal. 

With 25 years of professional experience in communications, Sara was a former journalist at Expresso, writing coordinator for RTP and also worked in radio. Additionally, Sara worked as a communication consultant for several agencies and companies, and also acted as a press officer.

In this chat we spoke about the importance of communication as a leader, how to become a great storyteller and the importance of finding a mentor. 

Want to learn more? You can read or listen to our chat with Sara Batalha on YouTubeSpotifyListen Notes, or Player FM. It’s also available anywhere you listen to your favourite podcasts via Buzzsprout.

Authored by Sara Batalha, CEO of Media Training Worldwide (MTW) Portugal.

Communication is one of the most critical skills to master as a business owner. If done well, communication can scale your business to new heights. However, many leaders think making an effort to build their communication skills is a sign of weakness. This could not be further from the truth. Communication is an asset, and a tool to showcase your value and that of your business. 

Contrary to many business owners’ beliefs, small businesses can compete with the big guys. In fact, the small size can be your biggest advantage. Your business may be small, but this means it is more agile. You can make changes and adapt to circumstances faster than larger corporations. You can also connect with clients quicker and on a more personal level. Some factors that we think are limitations can actually be strengths if we look at them from a different perspective and intentionally grow them. Honing your communication skills, for instance, is critical as a business owner. Here are some tips to master the art of communication. 

To communicate is to listen
One of the first steps in improving your communication is learning how to observe. Everyone you speak to will be different, so listening is critical as it helps you understand your similarities and differences. Being self-aware is also important in this process as it helps you understand your strengths and limitations, which allows you to make connections with others.  

Communication is all about respect. In today’s globalised world, taking an interest in expanding your knowledge and communication abilities as a small business owner is crucial. Simple things such as learning a few words in a different language or showing a genuine interest in someone’s culture or interests can make all the difference in building a connection with clients or business partners. If you want to connect with someone, you have to make them feel seen and acknowledged. One small thoughtful gesture can make all the difference in building successful business relationships. Ensure you take the time to understand different cultures and communication styles. Overall, communicating as a small business in today’s globalised world means being adaptable, respectful, and willing to learn and grow. 

Become a great storyteller
Many leaders know storytelling is a powerful tool for businesses, but very few know how to get it right. They struggle to deliver stories that connect with their audience because they focus on what they think is good content, rather than what their audience thinks. When you publish something, it has to add value to the audience, not you.

For a large part of our lives, we were taught in school to structure essays and stories with an introduction, middle, and end. We are taught to give context before we get to the good part. However, when you’re communicating with your audience, you need to save the best for the beginning. Humans have an attention span of eight seconds, a shorter attention span than a goldfish. So, you cannot afford to leave the best for last anymore. Start by communicating with the end in mind. This is why communication is an art that must be mastered.  

To tell stories that successfully connect with your customers, you must first understand your customers’ stories. Speak with your clients and customers and get to know who they are. Ask for their permission to be a part of your business’s story. Capture the moment when they use your product or service and how they’ve benefitted from it. Use the five senses to immerse your audience in your storytelling. Many business owners try to use facts and figures to entice people when it’s really about emotions, moments and stories. To connect with your audience, you should understand their stories and make them a part of your business’s narrative.

Find a professional coach
Communication is a learnt skill and so finding a teacher, coach or mentor can be beneficial. A common fear for business owners is getting interviewed and being asked tough questions about their company, getting decontextualised, or not being able to say what they wanted to say. It’s no wonder that many successful business owners undergo media training. This is often done secretly because of the stigma that seeking help is a sign of weakness. However, times are changing, and more and more leaders are welcoming the fact they need help to become a better communicator.

Media training is often seen as a war when it should be viewed as a dance. It is a tool that can help you communicate more effectively, showcase your value, and build a positive reputation for yourself and your company. With the right approach, media training can boost your confidence as a leader and equip you with the ability to communicate effectively, even in challenging situations.

For small business owners, delegating tasks can be a struggle, and admitting they need help can be even harder. However, the most successful leaders are always the ones who are comfortable being accessorised. They know their limits and are willing to step down when they should and ask for help when they need it. If you’re an expert on the tools, but not in business management or finance, it will be beneficial to ask someone to help you. Businesses can only grow if their leaders humble themselves and admit they cannot do or know it all.

Building trust through communication
Trust is a fundamental aspect of any successful relationship, especially in business. However, trust cannot easily be taught, rather it’s a choice we make repeatedly. Sharpening your communication skills will allow you to choose the right clients for your business, as opposed to accepting any that come your way, ultimately benefiting your business.

Conflicts and betrayal are inevitable in business relationships, but good communication can help build and maintain healthy relationships with clients, which is essential for growing a business. Your clients are more than just customers. They are partners who choose to work with you because they believe in what you stand for. Therefore, it is essential to be able to communicate your values and vision to not only attract the right clients, but to choose the right clients for you. 

Choosing the right clients is not just about finding people who will pay for your services. It is about surrounding yourself and your team with individuals who will protect you and your business. As such, when clients walk into your business, your team should be smiling, welcoming, and ready to listen. Listening to your clients is crucial because it helps you to understand their needs and identify areas where you can provide the best value. At the beginning of any engagement, it is essential to listen with an open mind. Ask open-ended questions; the ‘how’s’ instead of the ‘what’s’.

At the end of the day, building trust with your clients goes beyond simply providing excellent service or products. It’s about relationship building. By prioritising trust and relationship building, businesses can create mutual respect between clients, and this will lead to long-term success.  

Communicating digitally
In today’s digital age, social media is such a powerful communication tool and having a digital presence is essential. However, finding the balance between being vulnerable to connect with your audience and sharing too much of your personal life can be challenging. It’s crucial to be strategic about what you communicate and how you do it. Having a plan for your online presence can be incredibly valuable as this can help build connections and humanise your brand, without you having to overshare.

Become intentional about the content you share online. While sharing professional content that aligns with your values and enhances your personal brand is critical, being vulnerable and showing your human side is equally important. As a business owner, you will often have to experiment with what will work for you and your audience. Nevertheless, strategising your online content can help you strike this balance, helping you build trust, connect with your audience, and establish yourself as a communicative leader.

Ultimately, enhancing your communication skills is a crucial art to master as a business owner. Effective communication gives you opportunities to showcase your value, build a strong client base and grow your business. By embracing communication as a necessary skill, leaders can achieve their goals and take their business to new heights.  

Remember that effective communication adds value to your audience, not just to you. So it’s important to ask yourself, are you open to relating to others, and do you actively listen to your customers?