“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” -James Humes

As program leader, good communication skills are essential. Whether you’re talking to program staff, school administrators or families in your program, it’s important to use clear communication that fosters trust, understanding and collaboration.

Dr. Paul Young, former president and CEO of the National AfterSchool Association, agrees. In his book, Principal Matters: 101 Tips for Creating Collaborative Relationships Between After-School Programs and School Leaders, Young shares the following tips to help program leaders enhance and develop their communication style:

  • Look at issues from different points of view. Avoid “group-think” attitudes, and foster creativity by exploring various angles of thinking. Program leaders who lack the ability to identify and present different viewpoints fail to move conversations in desirable ways.
  • Convey knowledge and opinions about a variety of issues. According to Dr. Young, program leaders should aim to be well-rounded people who have knowledge, expertise and opinions on a number of topics like current educational issues, sports, entertainment and politics. Tap into what you’ve learned from mentors, personal experience and interactions with peers. Additionally, seek knowledge from listening, reading, writing and participating in professional development activities.
  • Display passion and enthusiasm. Focus on those things you’re most passionate about - children, learning, curriculum or serving others - to project enthusiasm onto others. To be effective communicators, program leaders must be able to draw on their passions and persuade the listener to understand them.
  • Draw others into conversations and listen to them. Use give-and-take sharing to avoid one-sided conversations. Good communicators skillfully ask questions that draw others in, keep them engaged and balance the conversation.
  • Be curious. Don’t stop learning. Effective communicators read, write and think constantly as well as model learning for others. Additionally, they welcome new ideas and know how to talk about their learning interests with their listeners.
  • Show empathy. People enjoy working with leaders who can relate to what they say and feel. Plus, it helps develop trust and connectedness. Dr. Young believes empathetic leaders know how to listen and ask questions that show they care, convey recognition and value and show respect for the individual.
  • Use humor. Humor is a great way to build rapport and maintain a listener’s attention. And good communicators know how to effectively integrate it in conversations. But Dr. Young warns not to force it. Instead, work humor into a conversation naturally and keep a repertoire of stories and jokes ready to share when the timing is right.

Program leaders who are good communicators are able to share their mission effectively, draw support from others and lead change. For more helpful tips for afterschool program leaders, check out Dr. Paul Young’s book, Principal Matters.