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Do you communicate like a leader?

Posted by: Diane Brady on June 12, 2007

I was rifling through Dianna Booher’s latest book, The Voice of Authority. She outlines 10 strategies to communicate better, and who doesn’t want to do that? Some of the tips are obvious: tell it like it is and give complete information. Be specific and use plain English. Look credible—likeable, professional, humble … the whole bit. Simple stuff that’s hard to execute.

But a few things stand out. Why do so many people choose to skimp on details? Often, it stems from a leave-the-thinking-to-us mentality that makes managers dispense nuggets to staff on a need-to-know basis. That may protect a few secrets (always hard to do in the age of blogs and e-mail) but it creates unease and resentment around a company. Another is the tendency to limit discussions to a few players up and down the chain of command, freezing out the folks who aren’t part of the inner circle.

But poor communication often comes down to a basic human urge to avoid unpleasant or unpredictable conversations. Few of us like to carry bad news, or put ourselves in a position where embarrassment and confrontation are possible outcomes. I think that’s one reason people now rely too heavily on e-mail, something we have written about in the past.

Anyone have tips that have helped them to communicate better?

Reader Comments


June 13, 2007 3:57 PM

I've got a few ideas that have worked well for me. I am not in charge of my office, but first time visitors almost always assume that I am. For one, I maintain a significantly more professional appearance than most of my superiors (a french-cuffed shirt seems to convey a certain message, as do cufflinks that match my tiebars). Also, I never shy away, when dealing with clients, coworkers, or superiors from giving them bad news in a frank manner. It might not earn you friends, but it does earn you respect.

In order to communicate as a leader, the key I've always followed is accountability. The buck stops with me, sometimes even if it doesn't belong there. Equivocating and dancing around issues simply are not traits of a leader. All of us have had the experience of customer service reps deflecting blame or claiming a mistake just happened by no one's fault. The client never believes it and it makes the equivocator look like a lying fool.

And keeping secrets is a surefire way to make people distrustful not to mention quite insulting to their intelligence. If you can't trust your people to know the whole story, I recommend you fire them and hire adults instead.

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