Great Leaders Communicate Well

The Leader’s Nemesis

Ask any leader, “What is the single, most critical issue you are currently facing?” The answer: “communication” appears on 97% of the lists. In fact, communication breakdown is the single, most common response.

Communication Breakdown, by Led Zeppelin, was released in the1969 debut album. Some of the lyrics were: Communication breakdown, it’s always the same; I’m having a nervous breakdown, drives me insane!”

In the Sixties, I enjoyed rock and was critical of “The Man’s” failure to communicate. Today,  I am “The Man!” And while I have different tastes in music today, I am annoyed by the fact that communication remains the leader’s nemesis.

Root Causes Of Communication Breakdowns:
•Failure to appreciate one’s responsibility to communicate
•Making false assumptions about what others already know/understand
•Failure of the communicator to clearly understand what is being communicated
•Habits of speaking in jargon, popular metaphors and “pc” slogans
•Insecure feelings that cause one to hide his/her lack of understanding
•Rushed, harried panic believing there is no time for communication
•Impatience with the discipline and details communication requires
•Failure to appreciate an individual’s contribution to the whole
•Big picture oriented, thus missing the detailed components
•Low “EQ” (emotional intelligence) thus missing subtleties in communication

Keys To Effective Communication:
Begin with a mental picture of the expected outcomes. Leaders cannot communicate what they do not conceptually comprehend. To communicate, the leader must be willing and able to:
•Conceptually understand and clearly communicate expectations (visualize/verbalize).
•Accurately depict strategies to meet expectations (a general sense of direction, functional detail and required resources).
•Enable and facilitate people to accomplish realistic goals. They need to be “positive, rational, optimistic,” as well as specific, worthwhile and measurable.
•Encourage performance to exceed expectations (Value both internal/external customer needs, encourage continuous improvement and communicate with stakeholders).

Five Communication Talking Points for Leaders:
Effective leaders communicate these 5 elements clearly and often:

1. Vision:
Where are we going? (The 50,000-foot view. Paint a verbal picture of the end result describing what the completed task will look like when it is finished.)

2. Expectation:
How do we expect to get there? (This is the focused, ground-level perspective. What needs to be done to accomplish the goal and how will the elements fit together?)

3. Value:
Why are we doing this? (Why is this important? What is the reason/purpose driving this goal?)

4. Contribution:
Where do “we” fit in? (Identify and communicate the valuable contributions of each person involved, letting them know why and how they are important to the success and how they make an important difference.)

5. Timing:
What is the time line? (What are the laser-sharp priorities, deadlines and target dates?)

Most people want to be effective. Understanding vision, expectation, value, contribution and timing, they are motivated and empowered to be successful.

Effective leaders accept and believe: “I am 100% responsible for my communication.”