Effective communication occurs when your message is created, sent, received, understood and acted upon to give the outcome expected. The best messages are brief, easily understood and unambiguous. They are usually verbal, but may be written. Written words may have the potential for misinterpretation, but this is less likely because they are usually the result of considered thought.

Some messages may be neither oral nor intentional and leaders need to take care that all messages sent are those intended. An example is body language, which includes reactions, mannerisms, gestures and posture. People are usually less aware of messages they send by body language, and this has significant implications. It is generally accepted that 70% of communication is nonverbal, and leaders should practise self control to harness body language so that it reinforces intended messages, and does not give unintended or conflicting ones.

The best leaders decide what needs to be said, then give brief messages which are to the point. They speak clearly and make eye contact with all members of the group, which helps them monitor how the group is receiving the message. Good leaders realise that communication is a two-way process, and are aware of the response to their messages. They seek feed-back from the group, because this enables them to gauge reactions and clarify points where necessary. Good leaders listen carefully to ensure that they are not missing the point of what a group member is trying to say; they look for the body language and other signs present to help interpret the ‘true’ message.

In critical situations, it may be advisable to ask group members to repeat what you have said in their own words. This technique should eliminate any possibility of misunderstanding.