Overcoming Communication Challenges: Insights from Emma Louise Wainer

In leadership, one thing stands out above all else: communication. It's not just about what you say; it's about how you say it. Emma Louise Wainer, the CEO of Speaking at Work, is on a mission to help leaders communicate effectively. Her goal is to help them break down communication barriers and biases that can hold them back.


Speaking is not just about words; it's a whole-body process. Pay attention to your body language, posture, and breathing. Ensure that your non-verbal cues align with your spoken words, projecting confidence and authenticity.


In a recent conversation with Brian Gorman on the Qonversations podcast, Emma Wainer shared her insights on the challenges leaders face when it comes to communication and how they can overcome these hurdles. In this blog we will dive into the key takeaways from their discussion:


1. Perceived Competence: It Starts in Your Mind


Emma made a crucial point: what you think significantly influences how you communicate as a leader. She talked about something called "perceived competence," which is a bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you doubt yourself, it can leak into how you appear, sound, and talk.


Imagine it like this: if you're constantly second-guessing your abilities, it shows. It's like a subtle language that others pick up on – your body language, the way you speak, the words you choose – they all reflect this doubt. And guess what? People tend to oversimplify your competence based on these cues.

So, what's the remedy? Emma had a great suggestion: start by being aware of your thoughts. Do you often doubt yourself or have negative beliefs about your skills? If so, it's time to challenge these thoughts. Remember, you've earned your leadership role for a reason. You're the expert in your field, and your experience speaks for itself. By boosting your self-confidence and banishing those self-doubts, you can unlock your full potential as a communicator and a leader.

2. Authenticity Over Perfection


Let's get one thing straight: being a leader doesn't mean you have to be flawless. It's not about sticking to a perfect script or hiding your true self behind a wall of perfection. It's like having a stack of notecards for every meeting, meticulously planned and rehearsed. Emma shared a story about one of her clients who used to spend hours preparing for meetings in this way, and it made her seem less real.


Yes, you read that right. It's about showing a touch of vulnerability and letting your genuine self shine through. That's what truly connects with people. So, go ahead, be authentic, and don't be afraid to break free from the script once in a while. It's the key to being a leader that people can relate to and respect.

"So, I believe the first step is always, always, always to begin with what you're thinking. I would suggest paying close attention to those thoughts. If you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, self-doubt, or if you're anticipating that things might go wrong due to insufficient preparation or concerns about specific content, such as slide 27 and its data – especially if you feel uncertain about it – be aware that these thoughts can profoundly influence your overall demeanor. Therefore, I recommend starting by reflecting on your thoughts. Afterward, focus on your body language, as your body is your most significant means of communicating, wouldn't you agree?"





3. Embrace Neurodiversity and Differences


In the quest for stronger teams, Emma's wisdom reminds us of a crucial lesson: diversity matters. But what does diversity really mean? It's not just about noticing differences in gender, race, or where someone comes from. It's also about something called "neurodiversity," which is how our brains work differently. It's about having unique ways of communicating and seeing the world.


Here's a story from Emma: Imagine a client in a mostly male workplace, and she happened to be on the petite side. In this environment, her ideas often got lost. But with Emma's help, she learned to stand tall, both physically and vocally. By doing this, she not only gained the respect she deserved but also brought a fresh perspective to her team.


This story teaches us that diversity is like a secret weapon for teams. When leaders make room for everyone's unique qualities and viewpoints, something amazing happens. Creativity sparks, new ideas flow, and decisions become sharper. It's not just about knowing that diversity exists; it's about actively welcoming it. That way, every voice is heard and valued. And when that happens, your team can achieve incredible things together.


4. Encourage a Safe Speaking Environment


It's all about creating a space where team members feel safe and encouraged to voice their opinions.


Picture this: a leader who actively promotes open dialogue. They listen attentively to their team, valuing each contribution. When someone makes a meaningful contribution, this leader acknowledges it, giving credit where it's due. This approach isn't just about words; it's about actions that communicate, "Your thoughts matter, and I appreciate your input."


In such an environment, team members feel safe and valued. They're more likely to speak up, share their unique perspectives, and contribute to discussions openly. It's a powerful way to harness the collective intelligence and creativity of the team.


Ultimately, it's the leader's responsibility to foster this safe and open environment, and the benefits are immense. When team members know their voices are heard and respected, the team can achieve greater innovation, problem-solving, and overall success.


5. Shift from the Gap to the Gain


This shift in thinking can profoundly impact your leadership and communication skills. Focus on your strengths rather than obsessing over weaknesses.


Instead of fixating on what you lack or what you can't do, concentrate on your unique abilities. Every leader has strengths that contribute to their effectiveness. Recognizing and valuing these strengths is essential for building confidence and self-assurance.


Emma offers a practical approach: identify one specific area where improvement can make a big difference in your leadership or communication. This targeted effort is more manageable than trying to address all your perceived shortcomings at once.


Furthermore, both Emma and Brian stress that no one can excel at everything. As a leader, acknowledge your team members' strengths and assign tasks accordingly. Effective leadership involves leveraging your team's expertise.

This approach not only enhances your leadership and communication but also fosters a positive work environment that encourages growth and success. Shift your mindset from weaknesses to strengths, and you'll empower both yourself and your team.


In conclusion, effective leadership communication requires self-awareness, authenticity, and an inclusive mindset. By addressing perceived competence, embracing diversity, creating a safe environment, and using your entire body to communicate, you can unleash your true leadership potential.


So, the next time you step into a leadership role or face a challenging communication situation, remember Emma Wainer's advice: speak like the leader you are, and watch your influence and impact grow.


Listen to the full conversation.


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