Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! While leadership often involves making difficult decisions and inspiring people to achieve their full potential, the value of communication cannot be overstated. Communication is what sets great leaders apart. In this week’s episode, Jeff and Lem talk about what happens when leaders fail to communicate and the keys to communicating effectively.
What happens when leaders do not communicate effectively?
A recent Gallup poll of US workers found that more than 80% of all employees are “deeply concerned about the success of their organization.” This is a dramatic increase from one year ago when numbers averaged about 20-30%. We must be transparent and communicate often!
Effective communication is always important, but it is critical in times of crisis or challenge. When employees do not receive enough communication, they fill the gaps in their understanding on their own. They listen to rumors they hear about the competition and the market. They wonder how their leaders are responding and how their response will impact their job. They will interpret your body language, tone, and inflection in a way that is usually much worse than the truth. Leaders must over-communicate and constantly state where they are going.
Q: Why do you think that body language is so important in communication? Describe a time when you misinterpreted someone’s body language or they misinterpreted yours. What was the effect? How was the situation rectified?
What are some key questions leaders need to be able to answer about their communication strategy?
What are the key messages you should communicate right now, and what do you want all managers communicating throughout the organization?
How can you keep these messages in front of managers and employees?
What are the significant forces at play in your specific markets?
How is our company positioned to win?
What is staying the same despite all these changes?
What are the top three most important business priorities for the next 3 months? The next 6 months?
Q: What other questions would you add to this list? When faced with a lot of crucial information, how would you decide what information to prioritize?
How should a leader determine the best way to communicate with their team?
The way you communicate is critical, and you will need to determine the best vehicle to deliver each message. Regardless of how you deliver the message, it will have three phases:
1. What happened?
Be honest and candid. Provide as much information as possible.
2. What’s next?
Explain where the organization needs to go and why. Consider the business’s and customer’s needs, industry trends, and internal issues. Show employees what the solution looks like and the support they will receive throughout the process.
3. What does it mean to you?
Speak to both what it means to the leader as well as what it means to each audience member.
Identify the things that will not be changing and could provide a sense of stability, continuity, and identity to the group.
Q: Which of these steps do you think is most important? Has a leader ever skipped one of these steps with you? Which step? How did it impact your ability to understand and accept what was going on?
While you can communicate some information one-on-one or through email, you will inevitably have to deliver information to your entire team in person at some point. If this is something that you struggle with, try watching videos of public speakers that you enjoy online. Pay close attention to their body language and how they engage their audience. Try to find a speaker who is addressing a group that is about the size you will be speaking to.
What big decision do you need to make and communicate in the coming weeks? Take some time to brainstorm the possible questions your employees might have about the process. Write down their questions and consider your response to each question. Then, determine what information needs to be shared with everyone and the best way to present it. Make sure that you address all possible angles with as much transparency as possible. Remember, this will keep your people from telling themselves the worst-case scenario!
Get some critical feedback from your employees. Find someone you trust and ask them what questions they still had after you made your last important announcement. Write down those questions or concerns, address them quickly, and use them to help formulate your next announcement. Continue this process every time you communicate something crucial with your team. Then, you will learn how to communicate in a way that thoroughly explains your position and fills in the gaps for your people so they do not have to do it themselves.