I have seldom met a manager who did not think he or she was a fine communicator. And fine communicators they may have been, but to whom they were communicating (their spouse, their pets, their imaginary friends) was a mystery because it sure was not to people who worked for them.
Surveys bear this out. A majority of managers claim to be good communicators. But, as Boyd Clarke and Ron Crossland of the tompeterscompany! point out in their insightful book, The Leader’s Voice, when those same managers are evaluated by their employees, the majority of employees say just the opposite.
This is a major problem when you consider that the overriding concern in the workplace, according to the Gallup Organization, is fear. Imagine that. Most of the employees in your organization are afraid. Fear can run the gamut from fear of not being appreciated to fear of losing a job.
And therefore it is no surprise that according to a recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management, eight in 10 people want to leave their jobs. If we consider that a third of those employees were fooling around when they responded to the survey, this means you still have 50 per cent of your workforce who want to be working somewhere else.
And, if you believe what Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman posit in their seminal book, First, Break All the Rules — the idea that people join companies but leave bosses — you will understand that as a manager you have an awesome responsibility. Your challenge is not simply to do your work, which is really to help others do theirs. It is to keep your people focused, productive and inspired.
The cold hard reality of management is that it is less about you and more about your people. It is about unleashing the talents and skills of your people in order to enable them to do the work. (Thank you, Buckingham and Coffman!) Management is really about supporting others, providing them with the resources to do the job. That’s the focus and productivity part. Inspiration comes from leadership — having employees who want to be at work and want to work for you.
Management and leadership are two distinct disciplines but necessary ones for anyone in a supervisory position, whether you are a CEO, CIO or manager of systems analysis for the controller’s office.
And the link between management and leadership is communication. If you want your people to believe in you and if you want them to do something, you need to communicate. For more than 20 years, I have worked with men and women to help them become better communicators. Over that time, I have worked at a concept that I call “leadership communications.” That phrase refers to the way in which leaders use their communications to do two things: build trust and drive results.
Seldom will anyone disagree with the concept. It is common sense, after all. It is what leaders of every generation have been doing to give purpose to their people’s lives. The hard part comes in figuring out how to use communications. My belief is the communication may be the very fulcrum of the leadership lever.
If you want to be the boss that people want to work for, you must communicate. Communication facilitates the leadership process. That means when you set the vision, you articulate it. When you plan, you tell people about it. When you delegate, you have a dialogue with your people about who does what.
When you coach, you have a conversation about what’s going right and what needs improvement. When you recognize, you do so with words (and actions). And when you motivate, you do all of the above in order to create the right conditions for people to feel connected, empowered and able to contribute.
In short, all of leadership comes back in one form or another to communication up, down and across every level of the organization.
Communicating and leading
But that is not all there is to it. Three elements propel your leadership communications: speaking, listening and learning. You voice the message; you listen to what people have to say; you learn from what they say or don’t say.
That is the essence of the leadership communication cycle and at any given moment in any given day you will find yourself whirring within this cycle. For example, you will be speaking to your CIO. Later you will be listening to your employee. And maybe at night you will be learning from what you said and heard. The cycle is perpetual.