As a leader, are you communicating deliberately?
Giving your people the information they need to complete their tasks and contribute to your organization requires thoughtful and appropriate communication. Assuming that people are getting the information they need—or can figure things out for themselves—yields unpleasant surprises. Information left unmanaged does irreparable harm. Misunderstandings, confusion, misrepresentation and assumption distort information.
Without accurate and timely information, employees will end up doing the wrong things at the wrong times for the wrong reasons, notes communication expert Dean Brenner in “The True Cost of Poor Communication” (Forbes, November 2017). Good communication requires a deliberate and thorough approach, coupled with significant forethought and diligence.
When this topic comes up with my coaching clients, we discuss three components of deliberate communication:
Clarity. Information—be it instruction, updates, plans, orders or analysis—benefits everyone only if it’s clear and concise. Asking questions and seeking feedback affirm understanding. Use language geared for your audience to enhance clarity. Present information in a decipherable order and tempo so people can grasp it immediately and avoid confusion. Be clear about expectations and requirements. Set a well-defined, purposeful standard that points everyone in the right direction.
Specificity. Information should be specific enough to be understood, but not over-explained or expressed condescendingly. Convey challenging topics with unambiguous descriptions and explanations. Avoid using generalities on detailed subjects to prevent assumptions and misunderstandings. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes to see if information makes sense and will be meaningful later.
Relevancy. Leaders must be relevant communicators, confirms Dianna Booher in Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire, and Get Things Done (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2017). Give people information that pertains to them and what they’re being asked to do. Impertinent data may be interesting, but it dilutes the mission and makes staff question your priorities. Timeliness is critical, so share information as soon as your people can benefit from it. Don’t hold it to benefit yourself.
Keep in mind:
- Forthright and truthful leaders convey information their people can count on, carrying weight and reliability.
- When leaders hedge or dance around a topic, people question information’s validity and their boss’s intentions.
- When people know their leaders have integrity, they respond commensurately. A leader’s honest communication is rewarded with attention and allegiance.
- What do you think? Are you communicating deliberately? Does your manager communicate deliberately? Give me a call if you would like to discuss this in more detail. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.