Leadership Communication Strategies
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” ~ James C. Humes / Former speechwriter (for US Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan)
Although some might argue there is science behind communication; and they would be correct… communication, and more specifically leadership communication, is more art than science.
Leaders must communicate consciously if they want to get the most out of the people they lead. Far too many leaders, the 44% that recently reported they were unhappy with employee performance, practice unconscious communication.
If you are desirous of raising the bar on performance in your business, here are three proven communication strategies that will transform your work environment:
1) Define and Communicate Your “Championship Game”
From the first day of training camp everyone that is part of an athletic team at any level from little league through the professional ranks knows the ultimate objective and vision for their team is to reach the Championship Game (for baseball, it’s the World Series, for football, it’s the Super Bowl, and for soccer, it’s the World Cup, etc).
It is the inspiring vision to win the championship that keeps everyone focused, doing the right things for the right reasons so they can contribute to the team’s success, while also being able to reap the well-defined, and not so-well defined, individual and collective rewards and opportunities that come with their contribution.
Many managers complain about having to light a fire under their people to motivate them to follow through on anything beyond the minimum job requirements. Investing some time and energy to identify ways to communicate to motivate in a way that inspires their people and lights a fire within them, is a much better use of a manager’s efforts.
This approach can make a difference in a very short amount of time.
2) Address Issues Promptly, Directly and Respectfully
Communicating in this manner eliminates three of the 7 deadliest sins of leadership and workplace communication. Too many organizational leaders take too long to address issues, respond to questions, and suggestions from their team members, peers, superiors, etc. This is procrastination. It is unprofessional, offers an air of incompetence in decision making and damages respect and trust.
The best leaders address issues promptly.
Even better leaders address issues promptly and directly to the individuals to whom they need to be addressed to. They confront issues head on at the source. Because of a lack of positive influencing communication skills, less adept leaders fall into the procrastination pattern for fear of confrontation, or practice an even more trust and respect damaging practice of addressing issues generically in team meetings that should be more directly delivered one-on-one to individual perpetrators.
They fear the confrontation often because they have experienced previous attempts escalating into conflict or negative interactions, which have caused defensiveness, hurt feelings and resentments.
Much of this can be due to the leader’s inability to address confrontational conversations in a respectful manner. This again, reverts back to a leader’s skill level in positive influencing communication skills.
Champion level leaders have the communication skills to do all three extremely well. They address issues promptly, directly and respectfully and get the results they need while, most importantly, building a team culture of mutual respect with high levels of trust leading to high levels of performance.
3) Create a Forum/Outlet for 2-Way Communication and a Feedback Loop
Communication is always among the top three issues or problems identified by employees in organizations. The challenge with this generic, vanilla statement is that there are too many aspects of communication to fix the problems.
It must be more clearly defined.
In a recent client project three different teams in one focus group identified communication as an organizational problem. Yet, each defined it differently from a completely different context.
One simple way to resolve this issue is to create a formal forum for communication that includes a two-way feedback loop.
This sounds much more complicated than it really is. It simply means that regular, structured meetings are facilitated to bring issues, problems, ideas and suggestions to the fore for company leaders to address and respond to.
There are four key steps for doing this successfully:
1) Schedule meetings at regular and consistent times
2) Invite a cross section of participants representing the various departments, divisions, etc.
3) Collect ideas, chunk them into related categories and prioritize
4) Create a system through which company leaders can respond to every item in a reasonably timely manner.
Often company leaders are leery of developing this type of communication process for fear of the meetings devolving into gripe sessions. These fears are valid and can be eliminated by doing these three things:
1) Setting clear guidelines at the outset,
2) Ensure that all ideas and suggestions are articulated in a positive, constructive manner, and
3) Following through with prompt feedback on all ideas so that those contributing feel as if their contributions were taken under consideration and were valued (it is perfectly okay to say “no” to an idea as long as it comes with a credible reason).
Or, if you’d like more specific and direct help to improve your approach to leadership communication to transform motivation, morale and performance in your organization, feel free to contact me.
Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.