By Audrey J. Beach â—Ź Registered Corporate Coach
Why is it during the most challenging business conditions I often find leaders communicate even less with employees? Could it be theyâ€™re simply nervous and afraid something may slip out they arenâ€™t supposed to share contributing to a misunderstanding and eventual business blunder? Perhaps a difficult question gets askedâ€” one for which they arenâ€™t prepared and would rather not be placed in an awkward situation of not knowing the â€śrightâ€ť answer. In some cases, leaders are so focused on meeting the business goals at hand they donâ€™t pay as much attention to â€śpeopleâ€ť concerns The mantra becomes: â€śLetâ€™s just get the job done anyway we canâ€ť and worry about communicating later.
Whatever the reasonâ€¦leaders please stop!
The vast majority of leaders with whom I partner, typically possess effective communication skills. However, during stressful times, a time of crisis, cautious times, or when business conditions are not ideal, I find many leaders communicate less or stop communicating altogether. Ironically, itâ€™s during these times leaders should focus even more on their communication skills.
By no means am I suggesting that leaders spout forth opinions and speculations. I suggest leaders anticipate the tough questions in advance. Rememberâ€”a leaderâ€™s role is to lead the way. What a concept, right? No doubt, effective communication is important when directing budget cuts and managing other daily kinds of organizational activities. Here, Iâ€™m referring to communications outside of typical work situations and activities.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author, consultant and former editor of the Harvard Business Review, wrote about change leaders. She noted some of the most important things a leader can bring to changing organizations are â€śpassion, conviction, and a confidence in others.â€ť Too often, she notes, leaders announce a plan, launch a task force, and then simply hope their employees find the answers.
During times of challenge, we find leaders focus their energies more on â€śmeeting the goals.â€ť Of course, this is expected. This is why they are leadersâ€¦ to ensure organizational goals are achieved. Remember, usually the most expeditious way to meet ambitious goals will be through the people who have been chartered to carry out the responsibilities at hand.
These employees need to believe and trust in their leaders so they will confidently embrace the mission. Leaders need employees who understand whatâ€™s going on and why, and what theyâ€™re expected to do.
And guess what? Youâ€™re right! Leaders must become advocates of the realities in organizations. Employees want to know: Whatâ€™s going on? What is the direction and why? Whatâ€™s the impact? Whatâ€™s next? Effective communication will ultimately help get leaders to where they need and want to go.
How do leaders provide information critical to building the confidence and trust needed to carry forth the mission?
Leaders, please use your effective communication skills that I see unveiled in coaching sessions:
- Get educated on the issues.
- Anticipate employeesâ€™ questions and concerns.
- Ask good questions.
- Listen completely without judgment and without formulating your answer while youâ€™re listening.
- Actively collect information.
- Be prepared.
- Plan your communication. These are the times when leaders will want to focus keenly on employees and initiate simple conversations.
By the way, if leaders donâ€™t have all the answers itâ€™s okay too. Itâ€™s better for a leader to say, â€śI donâ€™t know the answer to your question. Let me do some research and get back to you.â€ť And leaders, follow through on your promises. Provide an answer even if the answer might be, â€śIâ€™m still figuring that one out. Iâ€™ll have to get back to you.â€ť
Leaders will want to remember to recognize, reward and celebrate the accomplishments of their teams. And, doing so doesnâ€™t need to cost anything. Communicating simple successes is often underutilized. Open up the lines of communication, articulate goals, and acknowledge othersâ€™ contributions. All of these things will help to build the effective partnerships needed to carry out the mission. Rememberâ€” successful partnerships donâ€™t just happen.
So, to all you leaders out thereâ€” loosen upâ€”stay genuineâ€”be true to yourselfâ€”and finallyâ€” relax and have a conversation!
Audrey J. Beach is a Registered Corporate Coach with the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC). She brings to executive coaching more than 25 years of business experience in management, coaching, facilitation and training. Her corporate career spans the industrial sector, research and development, business services in both public and private organizations, the government and consulting and coaching services. Audrey has coached business leaders in both the United States and Southeast Asia. She is the owner of Succeed With Coaching. You can contact her at Audrey@succeedwithcoaching.com or 937-602-2855 (USA).