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Learning to Communicate Like a CEO Is the Secret to Getting Your Team to Take You Seriously. Here's How to Do It. The average entrepreneur doesn't begin their career with much leadership experience. But eventually, entrepreneurs must learn how to be the boss. They can start by learning to communicate like a CEO. Here's how.

By Chris Porteous Edited by Jessica Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When an entrepreneur founds a business, they often begin by working alone or with a tight-knit group of like-minded people. And that makes sense. After all — getting a startup off the ground takes the kind of hard work and dedication that only true believers can provide.

At a certain point, though, a successful startup will grow beyond its small-team roots and start to become less like a passion project and more like a business. That's when the entrepreneur must make the transition from founder to CEO. Not every entrepreneur manages to do this successfully. On the contrary — some fail spectacularly.

The trouble lies in figuring out how to become a real leader — the boss, if you will. It's not always easy for entrepreneurs to disentangle themselves from the everyday goings-on of the businesses they've started. Worse still, many entrepreneurs struggle with getting their colleagues — who've become used to acting like peers instead of employees — to see them as authority figures.

A great first step to becoming the boss is to start talking like you're the boss. Doing so is easier than you might think. Here's a short guide on learning to communicate like a CEO.

What communicating like a CEO means

Before learning to communicate like a CEO, it's important to understand a bit about what that entails. It's often said in business circles that most of the jobs that leaders do are about performance. Like a great stage actor, a CEO must command attention and speak in a way that reflects their authority and gets their message across immediately. But — and this is important — they have to do it while remaining authentic.

In other words, an entrepreneur trying to recast themselves as a CEO needs to be themself but alter others' perceptions of them in a very specific way. Every meeting, phone call and email informs those perceptions, which is why learning to communicate like a CEO is such a critical step in the metamorphosis from founder to leader.

Related: Are You Coming Across as Authentic?

What successful CEOs project

The core components of communicating like a CEO are all about mindset. As CEO, everything you do and say should conform to a few specific characteristics:

  • Confidence: Projecting confidence inspires others to follow your lead, so if you can't be confident about something you'd like to say, don't say it.
  • Transparency: Nobody wants to follow someone they think is withholding critical information from them, so be as open and honest with your employees as possible at all times.
  • Clarity: For CEOs, brevity is a virtue, so get your message across as succinctly as you can without being curt or dismissive.
  • Enthusiasm: Even when you're at your most serious, it's important to project your enthusiasm for what you're doing — it's infectious.
  • Constancy: In a leadership role, everyone will look to you to be a steadying force, so you must project purpose while remaining calm and steadfast — and never panicked.
  • Connection: As a CEO you want to humanize yourself and stay connected to your team and customer base through emails and your website. Creating these authentic connections will strengthen commitment to your brand.

No matter which mode of communication you're dealing with, you'll find that the concepts above apply. There are, however, some communication method-specific things you'll need to know if you want to communicate like a CEO.

Related: 15 Ways to Lead With Effective Communication

Public speaking as a CEO

By far the most difficult mode of communication entrepreneurs must master to communicate like a CEO is the art of public speaking. That's especially true for those that aren't comfortable in the limelight. There are, however, a few simple tips that make things easier.

The first tip is to start small. It's never a good idea for an inexperienced public speaker to start by addressing a large group of people. Instead, building up from small gatherings to larger ones is a better approach. It's also advisable to practice with people outside of your company. A great way to do that is to volunteer to speak at your local chamber of commerce's next meeting or public function.

It's also a good idea to identify, learn and practice a relaxation technique that works for you. That way, you'll be able to approach your next public speaking engagement without any anxiety. Nothing loses an audience faster than a speaker appearing wooden, uneasy or unsure of themselves. Remember, two of the characteristics we discussed earlier are confidence and constancy — and you'll want to show off both as you speak.

Related: Does Public Speaking Make You Nervous? Here Are 10 Secrets to Help You Pull It Off Like a Pro.

A CEO's phone demeanor

These days, not too many people spend time conversing via telephone — except for CEOs, that is. They still have to hold conference calls and one-on-one consultations on the phone when videoconferencing or text chat aren't options. To do so successfully, they must understand how to approach each conversation with the appropriate mindset.

To begin with, whenever possible, you'll want to write up an agenda for your phone communications. Doing so will help you to move each conversation along and get exactly what you need out of each call. It's also important to practice the art of active listening on every call. That will demonstrate to the caller that you're hearing and digesting what they've said and will also help you to respond intelligently — just like a CEO should.

Approaching email like a CEO

The final major component involved in learning to communicate like a CEO is learning how to approach email like a CEO. Fortunately, this is the easy part. That's because it's easy to find voluminous examples of how highly successful CEOs handle their email communications.

One analysis of the emails of 38 successful CEOs found that they had a few things in common. One of the most common — and important — traits they shared was that they set boundaries for email use. Mark Cuban, for example, lets employees know how often to email him and what to email about. Others request that all emails include a deadline time for a response.

Outsourcing your inbox to an assistant allows CEOs to focus on emails that are important and require their attention while having someone set up filters, forwards and labels, and identifying and deleting spam emails allows CEOs to prioritize their time on critical items that push the business forward.

Another common trait was the use of standardized responses to assist in handling routine emails. As a CEO, the goal is to find an emailing style that your employees understand, can anticipate and that doesn't rub anyone the wrong way. As long as you handle your emails in a way that checks those boxes, you're communicating like a CEO.

Related: What Your Email Style Says About Your Personality

Now walk the walk

At this point, you should have a decent idea of what it takes to communicate like a CEO. We've covered the general attitude that CEOs must convey, as well as how to handle the most important communication methods. If you stick to the concepts above, you'll be communicating like a CEO in no time. Then, all that'll be left to do is to walk the walk and transform into the leader your growing startup needs to thrive.

Chris Porteous

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

High Performance Growth Marketer

Chris Porteous is CEO of SearchEye, which offers unbundled digital marketing projects for clients and agencies across the globe.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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