Cultivate a leadership culture. A Leadership Culture is one in which an organization’s people, ideas and capabilities are encouraged and respected. It is a culture where individual responsibility is valued because all employees are empowered to make decisions and encouraged to develop a sense of ownership in what they do. It is an environment where leaders cultivate other leaders at every level. In a leadership culture, people are more likely to communicate and less likely to distort activities, information and results that leaders need to properly manage the business.
Clearly communicate your vision. As a leader, whether you lead an accounting department, a production line, a neighborhood store or IBM, you should develop a vision of the future you expect. This vision must be articulated to your team.
Communicate what is expected of individuals. It is one thing to communicate vision, it’s quite another to communicate each person’s part in achieving it. Many leaders assume people will just figure out what they need to do at work. This is a key point where communication derails. The leader needs to communicate individual expectations to his/her direct reports and then ensure that communication continues throughout the organization. Leaders at every level must make roles and expectations clear to all.
Communicate with consistency. Be consistent regarding your vision and your expectations. Stick to the message without fail. Should you need to change direction, communicate that change in direction and vision and then be consistent. When staff is confused, they tend to become paralyzed in their efforts, paralyzing profits too.
Be a great listener. Most people think that communication just means disseminating messages, but that is only part of it. Communication also involves receiving messages. Become a great listener and make sure people feel that you are truly engaged and paying attention to them. Even if you disagree with what is being said, be a great listener. You may learn valuable information or critical reasons as to why things may not happen as envisioned. Having a leader who is a good listener is also a tremendous morale booster because people feel respected.
Engage with your direct reports. Encourage your direct reports to share their ideas with you and engage them in discussion on the best alternative to pursue. A new alternative may emerge through discussion that is better than the alternatives originally considered. Even when a leader has the full authority to make a decision, obtaining the views of others de-risks the decision and increases the probability of its success.
Respond quickly. When response is slow or not forthcoming at all, it causes people to take a guess regarding the direction to take. All kinds of things can go wrong when employees guess. Guess work can eat up profits very quickly.
Develop a public relations campaign to communicate internally. Perhaps even more important than your external public relations campaign is an internal one. The company rumor mill can be highly destructive to the bottom line, but it doesn’t have to be. Utilize newsletters, message boards, blogs, email, social media and other tools to make sure the right messages are distributed frequently and consistently.
Make communication a key skill required of new executives. Communication skills are often overlooked during the hiring process. These skills can be difficult to measure but that doesn’t mean that they should be ignored altogether. In the interview, ask about philosophies and methods of communication. Request examples of demonstrated communication skills. Ensure that the individual effectively communicates via PowerPoint and can get their points across. Observe communication skills during interviews in order to ensure you’re hiring the most effective prospect. But don’t just focus on new executives, as it will also be profitable to invest in advanced communication training for current executives and employees.
As important as it is to create the most efficient inventory, production and financial processes in a business, it is equally important to develop effective communication. There is no question that profits will be adversely affected when leaders risk expensive, incorrect decisions being made due to faulty conclusions, guess work or action paralysis. Leaders should give communication the highest priority in planning and implementation in order to maximize the bottom line.
Stan Silverman is the founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a widely read writer and speaker, advising c-suite executives about leadership issues and on cultivating a Leadership Culture®. He is the former president and CEO of PQ Corporation.
Published (and copyrighted) in Philly Biz, Volume 1, Issue 2 (January, 2016).
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