July 13, 2023
TPL Insights #179 – How Leadership Communications Can Make or Break Your Business, and Career!
By Rob Andrews
Carrying a communications tool bag stocked with essentials you know how and when to use is a practice that will accelerate your business and career. This piece will allow you to examine your own communications methodology and go a long way in ensuring that you maximize your own career potential and the success of your enterprise.
Thinking back over a long career of leading businesses and consulting/coaching boards, C-suite executives, and emerging leaders, I can say this without equivocation: The best communicators rise above the rest. Period. You can be the smartest person in the room, possess the best strategy, and exhibit world-class tactics, but if you can’t communicate, you can’t execute. Whether you are just beginning your professional journey or are already running a significant business, here are some items to consider.
“According to a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, poor communication can lead to low morale, missed performance goals, and even lost sales. A separate study found that inadequate communication can cost large companies an average of $64.2 million per year, while smaller organizations are at risk of losing $420,000 annually.” (Harvard Business School Online) According to Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell, and co-author of Execution, your tool bag should include communicating with clarity, accountability, candor, consistency, and adaptability. To optimize your career, have clear objectives and ensure your superiors, peers and subordinates understand that you believe in your personal vision, know where you’re headed, and have your stakeholders’ best interests at heart.
Making certain your superiors fully understand your objectives and how you intend to achieve them enables them to assist you, run interference for you, advocate for you, and ensure you have the right resources. Being accountable helps them understand the inner workings of the organization and how you make a difference. Being candid with your bosses is your opportunity to lead by helping them align the enterprise. Remember that you can lead from anywhere in the organization. This will set you apart from those who wait for orders. Jaco Willink, retired Navy SEAL Lieutenant Commander and co-author of Extreme Ownership, says it is everyone’s responsibility to fully understand and support senior leadership’s objectives and ask questions when they are unclear. Be adaptable and suggest better alternatives where appropriate.
Remember that individuals on the best leadership teams own every issue, not just the ones for which they are personally responsible. Bonding with your peers and being clear and supportive regarding one another’s respective goals will greatly enhance each member’s overall effectiveness. The best teammates are accountable to one another. They feel a sense of interdependence and recognize the synergy of each member that achieves their objectives. They are deliberate and consistent in their approach to giving and receiving candid feedback and constructively acting as thought partners with one another. Strong peers can help you adapt when necessary, coaching you to keep your eye on the prize while making necessary adjustments along the way.
Since you are directly responsible for your own team’s performance, recognize that most people truly want to do a great job and to please you. They also have full lives, and while their work is important to them, it may not be the center of their universe. Your job is to align your team around the organization’s purpose, mission, vision, values, and strategy (PMVVS). Establishing clarity around PMVVS is not a one-time thing; it requires regular reinforcement and helping each of your team members understand and appreciate the importance of the company’s “Why.”
To become a great leader, be more than just a good manager. Good managers establish clear roles, responsibilities, and accountability. Great leaders go above and beyond to help their subordinates find purpose and joy in their work. Organizations with a clear purpose and mission help their employees connect the dots. To augment our own research, we are affiliate partners of Gallup and The BluePrint Toolset. Together we’ve learned that 82% of the United States workforce, and 90% of the overall global workforce is disengaged. Conversely, the companies we’ve studied over several decades have exceedingly high levels of engagement, very low workforce turnover, and exceptional shareholder returns.
Each of the forty-one organizations that we have studied is driven by a purpose or mission greater than just making money. Each is guided by a crystal-clear vision and carefully crafted set of core values that serves as a north star. Helping your team understand and appreciate the behaviors your company reveres in support of its PMVVS will help them see value in their endeavors and enjoy the joy of their individual work. Clarity includes roles, responsibilities, and accountability for sure. Going from good to great, and developing peak performance, requires more.
Great leadership communication requires candid, seamless, and consistent leadership communications up, down, and across the organization. Encouraging candor among your team members will result in big dividends, build trust, and accelerate the successful growth of your unit. Jim Hackett, former Chairman & CEO of Anadarko, told us that he often ensured that someone in his meetings would disagree with him, just to demonstrate that he wanted honest and healthy debate on his teams. Because Hackett’s Anadarko was united around PMVVS, he felt comfortable encouraging healthy discourse. He encouraged “straight talk” and an environment in which “we told people what they needed to know to grow.”
Jim spent a lot of time communicating the difference between kindness in leadership and niceness in leadership. Jim said, “Kindness is loving people by telling them specifically how they need to improve, while niceness is avoiding candor ostensibly to avoid hurting people’s feelings. If candor, or straight talk, and facilitating personal and professional growth is part of the organization’s ethos, then people within it learn to expect and appreciate candor.” He then spent time explaining that candor must be delivered with empathy, mindful of timing and always in the spirit of love.
Consistency and adaptability are the icing on the cake in leadership communications, and it takes hard work to keep a constant flow of dialogue moving up, down, and across the organization. For leaders to innovate, adapt, and overcome, there must be constant awareness of geopolitical, economic, and competitive forces. There must be appropriate adjustments to which levers are pulled, while keeping an eye on the prize, ever mindful of purpose, mission, vision, values, and strategy.
We sincerely hope these posts are helpful. Playing a role in helping you build your own culture of peak performance is our greatest joy. Give us a call and we’ll be happy to be your thought partner.