Communication A Key Leadership Skill
What you say matters.
One of the biggest challenges that I see leaders face is the issue of "what" and "how much" information to share with their team and with their superiors. For most who move into leadership because of their skills on the team this is particularly true. Those folks you once groused with and vented with are now "your" team and suddenly that type of activity could not only be counter productive but very much a CLM (Career Limiting Move)!
What’s more is suddenly these folks also see what they communicate up the line to be something more problematic than it used to be. Do they share the issues they are dealing with and risk looking like a weak leader? Do they say nothing and hope they can resolve the issues on their own or better yet hope that those issues will simply go away? I always wondered why communication was considered a soft skill - lol!
Who do you emulate?
If you are in a healthy company or organization you will have a good pool of leaders to watch and emulate which in most places in how the art of leadership is passed on. Open communication built on trust and vulnerability make this skill so much easier to master. By that I mean in these types of groups where you can ask. No one expects perfection just improvement and that comes with being transparent about the issues at play.
If you are in a company or group that is not healthy you will still have a pool of leaders to watch and emulate its just that the things they pass along will not enhance your skills in this area.
These are the the leaders who never really transition to a full understanding of their new role. They will share information and vent with their team much more than they should. The reason for this will be varied but typically they feel that it keeps the team on side with them. It may be an effective short term solution but upper management will see it as a negative.
Some will be information hoarders who see this as a commodity and use it to advance their career or group goals. They become the informal conduits of information. This can clog up the flow of needed communication and certainly is a performance inhibiter.
Some will be the "keep your head down and mouth shut" type of leader who will strive to stay out of the lime light (good or bad). They take the approach that as long as the team doesn't lag behind the others they can't get into trouble. Not bad per se just not performance.
And others will be what I call the plumbers; delivering solid waste down and solid waste up. They think that leadership consists of berating and driving performance through threats and criticism. They think too that communicating the deficiencies of certain people on their crew up the line is a great way to demonstrate that they are "on top of things". It is a fear driven approach to communication that is premised at some deep level upon the idea that as long as they are doing the shoveling of the solid waste none will land on them.
Right Is Not Always Easy
The question I am sure that has crossed you mind is how do you perform as an open and transparent leader in an organization that is not known for that? In one company that I worked with I had a group of young leaders that I was taking through Performance Leadership. Of that group a couple had decided they wanted to embrace this approach whole heartedly. They were the newest leaders in the bunch and were at the bottom of the totem pole so to speak. And yes, this company was not an open and transparent communication type of company.
While some of the older leaders in that group had become practiced at being "plumbers" these two new leaders went the other way. In each case I saw transformational changes on their teams as they took to the new approach. It garnered a lot of criticism among some of their leadership peers but what could not be argued with was the results that they achieved. They upheld the company goals and explained them to the team in terms that related to them and made them relevant. They upheld their teams to upper management in terms of how they were striving to meet company goals and advance the bottom line. The result were remarkable and within a short span of time they were rewarded with more senior positions. It only took two (and often it only takes one) to be willing to step out of their comfort zone to get others to take a new look at how they communicated. It wasn't easy but it was right.
Whether you have been in leadership for a while or are just moving into it examine how your company communicates, how you communicate and make sure you understand how to make your communication work for you and for your team. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
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