Leaders Need to Learn to Think so They Can Speak the Truth... Clearly
Why are so many supervisors, managers, and even some big dogs with the snazzy three letter titles: CEO, CIO, EVP, etc., incapable of communicating clearly? Why are so many managers unable to provide honest commentary on work performance without belittling the employees, skirting the real issues, or confusing the employees with nebulous, non-specific examples? Why do so many managers suck at speaking the truth in ways that will help and not hurt employees?
I'm fortunate to work with incredibly bright, creative, and driven business owners and leaders. Yet, they're often quick to tell me, they don't know how to provide clear feedback that's helpful. And they're right. They don't. I've observed far too many staff meetings and planning sessions in which the leaders ramble on about the teams' failings, lecture individual employees, or otherwise berate the teams on theoretical, non-specific changes needed. Are their comments interesting? Somewhat. Helpful? No. Demoralizing? Absolutely. So why do leaders continue to do it? From my perspective: it's habit; it's quick; and most importantly, it doesn't require any work or change by the leaders. The leaders spew and the employees are expected to react.
Here's the real problem though, in these situations, the leaders aren't viewing their responsibilities correctly. The leaders in these circumstances view the employees as pawns, workers, doers or some other beings that work to produce the organization's services or widgets. The leaders lead; the doers do. That's fine in theory, but if leaders truly want doers to "do" at a higher level, the leaders need to learn to lead at higher levels as well. And, that takes time, work, and changes on the part of the leaders first. And that requires the leaders to think, to analyze their current situations, to assess the various drivers of the problems, to assess their roles in creating the situations and drivers, and to assess the teams' actions, reactions, and needed new actions.
After all of that thinking, the leaders need to develop clear ways to communicate those thoughts to their teams. It means the leaders will have thought, specifically, about what they want and need to say so it's truly helpful to their team members. They're no longer just spewing ideas and words and expecting the team members to form some meaning from them. They no longer practice the behavior of: You need to figure out what I'm trying to say because I haven't taken the time to get my thoughts and words straight before I open my mouth. Leaders who choose to lead at a higher level will take the time to think and identify: What does my team need to hear from me to help them understand, learn, grow, and move themselves and this organization forward? Then, how can I say it with specifics, examples, data, analogies, visuals, or some other means to make sure everyone understands? What can I do to communicate more clearly?
What these leaders are trying to communicate to their team members is the truth. What these leaders are trying to communicate to their team members needs to be said. What these leaders are trying to communicate will help the employees enhance their performance, improve services to customers, and move the organization. But how they're saying it sucks. So what needs to change in organizations? Leaders need to learn to think more often before they speak. So when they do speak to provide feedback, what they ultimately say is thoughtful, truthful, intentional, helpful, and clear.
Copyright MMXII Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.