Can you think of a time in your work life when you weren’t in the loop on information that you needed to do your job? How did that feel? Most people would say, “Not so good.” Ok, now think about how communication could have supplied a simple remedy. Just as communication is foundational to our individual professional lives, effective leadership communication is foundational to effective organizations, too.
Admittedly, your leadership communication will reflect your beliefs about leadership style. Personally, I think of it as the type of communication that engages people and helps them grow and participate with the organization’s mission, values and goals. (Of course, leadership communication is also situational. A crisis requires more immediate and direct communication, while communication about strategic plans may take shape over time. But, that’s the subject of another blog post, another day!)
Further, everyone communicates ineffectively occasionally. This post isn’t about one oversight or one or two ineffective moments — times you’ve regretted because of a mis-step in communication. We have all had times like that. We’re human. This post is about not communicating at all as a leader. This is important because leaders are organizational role models and his/her style of leadership communication becomes the organization’s communication style, too. Leaders lose their jobs for “not communicating.”
Why leadership communication is important
When we don’t prioritize effective communication with our employees, our customers, and the other people who we rely upon for our existence (i.e. the taxpayers of a school district, the members of an association, the vendors who are your partners), we communicate a message none-the-less. I’m going to say that again. When we don’t communicate, we are communicating. Communication conveys respect. It builds trust. When effective communication is an essential component of your leadership, the act of communication speaks loudly. On the flip side, absence of communication tells people a message too. No communication says that we don’t care to take the time or exert the energy to communicate effectively with them. I read a catchy headline that drove the message home for me. It read, “Your silence is killing millennials”.
Leadership communication defined
Leadership communication is the interpersonal communication that a leader engages in to shape, convey and/or change behaviors, attitudes and actions of others for the purpose of driving organizational success.
Here are some tips for a leader to consider to improve her or his focus on leadership communication.
- Develop consistent communication schedules for yourself. Literally plan communication into your schedule, just like you plan other tasks.
- Consider what needs to be communicated, by whom and when. How can you most effectively communicate for various purposes?
- Lead your organization to open a variety of communication channels. Think about where your audiences are and use those channels of communication. Are your audience members on social media or is face-to-face better?
- Plan communication into every organizational initiative. When your organization is implementing something new, changing something old, or has come to a bump in the road, consider what proactive communication can help the situation. For example, require that every meeting agenda carry a line item, such as: What are the communication implications from today’s meeting and what are we going to do about it?
- Build two-way communication opportunities. Two-way communication builds understanding and encourages more open communication. If all you do is send one-way messages, you’ll be less effective than if you engage people in two-way communication.
If you’re a leader, I encourage you to take the time and care about your communication, plan it, get it done, and engage in two-way communication. Indeed, leadership communication does take time. Yet, over and over again, I’ve seen the positive power it has on an organization when leaders take the time to lead their organization in effective communication.