Communicating as a Leader

How Cutting Back Communication Can Save You Time and Money – Part I

Steven Sonsino asked:

How do YOU communicate with your people? If you need to let your staff know something – the latest pay offer, when the office party is, that their department is being restructured – how do you do it?

If yours is a fair-sized business, chances are that you leave it to the HR department to fire off a memo or an email. And often, that’s just fine. You don’t need a leadership training course on how to organize a party.

But you’re missing opportunities to influence and inspire your staff if you leave ALL your communication to word-processed notes and email messages.

And you’re opening the door to misunderstanding and resistance if the really big changes are not communicated in a very particular way.

Let’s take a step back for a minute. If your day consists of meetings, more meetings, phone conversations, business lunches, staff negotiations, media interviews and board discussions, then you’re doing nothing but talking and listening all day.

Now, yes it’s a cliche, but knowing how to communicate effectively IS the most important task of a successful leader. For a successful leader, talk IS action.

But many managers get communication wrong. For instance, most leaders believe their main role in communicating is to make decisions for everyone else, and then tell everyone about the decisions.

Sorry, but this is a myth. Not only that, it doesn’t work. (How many times have you told everyone what needs to be done in a meeting or an email only to have nothing happen?)

The second myth is that you have to decide EVERYTHING. Managers who believe this create a rod for their own backs.

Why is that? Well, if you decide everything, then no one will ever take any initiative or show the slightest ounce of energy to do anything without your rubber stamping everything. Even the tiniest project will grind to a halt unless you have the final word.

But your time is far more precious than this. You should use your time more wisely than in rubber stamping it.

So how do you know when a decision absolutely has to be made? Well, let me tell you.

The most effective way to find out if there is a real decision to be made is to start a debate. By debating the issue with your peers, your staff and other stakeholders, you can decide whether a particular change is necessary or not.

Now, to start the debate you need to ask your people what they think is going on in a particular situation. And then you can test their answers against your own opinions.

This process helps you significantly in gathering as much intelligence as possible. And it makes it more likely that you will make the right decision for the company. But it also helps all those involved in the change.

Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, explains this well: “Through the process of presenting their own opinions, the participants will refine their own arguments and facts so that they are in much clearer focus. Gradually all parties can cut through the murkiness that surrounds their arguments, clearly understand the issues and each other’s point of view.”

So the successful leader is courageous and encourages widespread debate – even from people who disagree, as well as from supporters. And this helps you make the best decision for the organization.

Not only that, but it will help all those affected by that decision – they will know that they played a part in making the decision.

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