One of the most powerful skills a leader should strive to master is communication. He or she may have brilliant ideas and the vision to solve problems and accomplish daunting missions, but if the ideas and direction can’t be communicated effectively to others, the mission may produce weak results and fall short of the goal. When that occurs, low morale among the ranks usually follows.
I recently came across a list in New Man Magazine of nine principles of communication every leader should adopt. To be the kind of leader that not only gets results, but also earns the respect and loyalty of those you work with, you will want to learn and consistently apply these principles.
1. Dispense information freely to build esprit de corps. People are much more willing to enthusiastically participate when they know what they’re doing, why and how. Leaders who play close to the vest in order to maintain the appearance of power tend to alienate their teams.
2. Go out of your way to solicit ideas and suggestions. This is a step beyond an “open door policy” – it means you start the conversations with your team to get their input. Great ideas may come from surprising places!
3. Don’t just give orders, explain them. When people understand why they’re being instructed to perform a task in a particular way, they will not only comply more willingly, but they may even come up with some practical ways to accomplish the task even better.
4. Rip out the office grapevine by its roots. Nothing weakens a team faster than poor teamwork, and nothing erodes teamwork like members tearing each other down. Educate your team on how to resolve conflict and stop gossip. Establish a healthy option for resolving interpersonal tension.
5. Talk to those who are affected by your decisions. In many cases, I would recommend you talk with them before the decision is final so they can process how it will affect them and have the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. If that isn’t possible, it is still important to give people an opportunity to respond.
6. Maintain an informal atmosphere. Employees are more creative in a comfortable environment. If there is no professional need for titles and formal names, consider letting your staff call you by your first name. Be careful to maintain appropriate boundaries of authority and respect, but try to avoid stuffiness and “intimidation by title.”
7. Communicate simply, clearly and with a strong point of view. Unclear instructions lead to incorrect work, frustration and discouragement. Your staff will appreciate knowing that you say what you mean, and mean what you say.
8. Be accessible to your people. Business experts have long encouraged “management by walking around” so leaders don’t become isolated from their front-line workers and to make themselves available to address problems that arise during the work day. The key to successful “MBWA” is taking action to do something about identified problems. It won’t work if you are just hovering over your employees, sneaking around like a spy or interfering with the work being done.
9. Encourage personal relationships. Team building exercises and social opportunities help employees become friends who trust each other and work well together. Create opportunity for relationships to develop through occasional lunches and holiday parties; or consider hiring a professional to present a seminar on teamwork and communication. As people grow to understand one another better, greater cooperation and better attitudes will be the result.
We would like to hear from you! Have you ever worked for a great communicator? What made them great? If you’re a leader, are there tips you would add to this list? Let us hear from you in the Comments below!
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Dr. Todd is a licensed psychologist, executive coach, published author, and national conference and seminar speaker. He has been a featured expert on national and local radio talk shows and television news programs.