Saturday, October 18, 2008
Recently I have been speaking to groups about the importance of communication and the leader's role in making effective commo happen. It truly is critical that leaders establish a two-way street of continuous dialogue, that they do not monopolize all of the airtime but empower subordinates to make their voices heard.
Communication is vital in successful military units. Battles are won and lost based on how successfully these units share information about themselves, the enemy, and the terrain. Technology enables communication, standard procedures outline what is communicated, and good old fashioned leadership ensures that lines of communication are open to all.
Good commo is just as important for business units, sports teams, civic organizations -- and their leaders. It is the difference between success and failure -- no matter the arena in which we compete. That makes it Leader Business.
Nothing discourages our team members more than feeling like they don't know what is happening, like no one is listening, or that their opinion does not matter. Nothing breaks down team unity like a lack of transparency. Nothing indicates poor leadership like inconsistent or ineffective communication.
Leaders must make effective communication a priority. I say...over-communicate. We cannot go overboard on this. We cannot share too much information with our team. There is always more we can do to involve, engage, and empower our teammates. Over-communicate.
Here are a few considerations in over-communicating with our employees:
-- Check in with key leaders and direct reports on a regular basis. Be proactive, see how they are doing on their tasks or milestones, whether they have enough resources, etc. Call them, write them, stop by. Keep your open door...open! Just checking in and being available to your team means everything.
-- Use every means available to tell your story (priorities, vision, lessons learned, etc.) to include emails, videos, blogs, podcasts, Internet/intranet, battlefield update briefs, townhall or "all hands" meetings, and brown bag lunches. Be creative and stay connected.
-- Return emails. Even a simple - "okay...got it" means the world to people who want to know they are being heard.
-- Ensure people know your expectations for communication with you. Identify what you want to be told, when, how, etc. Any doubt will lead to misplaced assumptions about what you want to know. Post the "WHO ELSE NEEDS TO KNOW?" bumper sticker around the office to remind people of the importance of staying connected and sharing information.
-- Include people in decision-making. Don't just tell people that their opinion counts without taking action on what they say. Include teammates in creating a shared vision and they will own the plans that they helped create!
As I spoke to three different groups this week (military officers, college students, banking leaders), it was clear that I struck a nerve in highlighting this critical topic. We all know how important it is in our respective teams. We can get so busy fighting that we neglect that which will enable the success of the fight! But...communication is not easy. It requires hard work, discipline, and investment. That makes it...Leader Business!