In a previous posting I began a series on the 3 Deadly Sins of Poor Leadership. My initial posting focused on not moving fast enough to replace poor performers, either for performance or behavioural reasons. This is especially damaging to the CEO or team leader’s credibility, since everyone in the organisation knows who is not performing (remember, employees watch upper management and talk circulates quickly). Everyone watches the CEO to determine her level of courage and leadership. Keeping poor performing executives is also damaging to the overall culture, sowing the seeds of mistrust and lack of professionalism.
Today I consider Leadership Deadly Sin #2, Poor Communication, as both debilitating and insidious, and unfortunately far too common.
The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives. ~Tony Robbins
The 2nd Deadly Sin of Poor Leadership is when those in leadership positions fail to establish frequent open and direct communication with their direct reports and others whom they manage. Instead they rely on their direct reports to come to them when they need to talk. The fact is, the leader sets the tone. If the leader doesn’t reach out regularly to have open conversations with members of her team, then they won’t either.
There is no leadership without engagement, and there is no engagement without communication.
Consider the example of the Senior VP of Manufacturing who constantly says, “I’m easy to talk with. If my staff have an issue or a problem, my door is always open”. The fact is, unless the SVP establishes a habit and pattern of regular an open communications with his staff, only a few will take the initiative to engage and discuss issues. If the leader doesn’t reach out and meet one on one with their team on a regular basis, then the team won’t reach back. As a result, communications, open dialogue, transparency and the flow of information is curtailed. And respect in leadership tends to erode.
“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.” ~General Colin Powell
Many leaders erroneously believe that communication is up to the other person. One of these erroneous beliefs is that since they hire professionals and pay them well, “If they need help they will come and ask.”
I have also known CEOs and senior executives who are uncomfortable with the leadership obligation of direct, face-to-face conversations and who avoid regular dialogues with their direct reports. And in some extreme cases I have known a few leaders to hide behind the excuse of “being too busy” to have face-to-face performance reviews and instead send out their performance evaluations via email! After working hard all year, how would you feel to receive a performance review from your boss through email rather than face to face? Even if it was an excellent review, wouldn’t you want to discuss it face to face? To probe further and learn more?
One of the key obligations of effective leadership is to develop a culture of frequent, direct, straight-forward, open communication.
The role of leadership is to create more leaders, not more followers! ~Ralph Nader
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
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