When it came to communicating with his employees, the newly appointed CEO of an accounting firm adhered to a tight-lipped philosophy: “Only tell them what they need to know”. He gave swift and direct feedback when an employee did something wrong but remained entirely silent when someone met or exceeded expectations.
The CEO considered team meetings a waste of time, preferring to communicate on all key issues via email because of its paper trail.
Can you see a problem with this approach?
The flow-on effect of poor communication
The CEO’s communication style sets the tone of the organisation. In the example above of the accounting firm, the leadership team took their cues from the CEO. They withheld recognition and made no effort to inspire employees.
The result? Dreadful morale.
Limited communication, closed doors and non-accessibility don’t just stop employees from interacting with their leaders; they also ensure that critical information goes uncommunicated.
A culture of fear transpires. Employees become scared of interrupting. They don’t understand the business’s goals, so they start to do what they think is best rather than working towards a shared vision. Without clear communication, service delivery becomes inconsistent, and organisations fail to meet their service level agreements. The lack of unity and poor communication becomes apparent to customers, who look elsewhere for better service.
In worst-case scenarios, the business rolls steadily downhill, leading to the board of directors being left with no choice but to oust the CEO.
Finding a better way to communicate
You may not have time to sit in meetings all day talking to people about the business’s strategic goals, but you do need to build trust and rapport with your people. Without fail, great leaders connect with their employees.
How good are your communications skills?
- Visit worksites, offices and teams personally?
- Seek and provide clarity?
- Truly listen to your employees?
- Have an open-door policy?
- Have an internal communications plan?
- Survey employees to determine their communication needs?
- Act with authenticity? (The more natural and real you appear, the more likely your employees will trust you.)
If you answered no to any of these questions, it might be time to look for training or advice in this area.
We all have ways we can improve. It takes courage to identify those areas and seek assistance. If you’re not ready to reach out but would like to find other ways to understand your impact and potential, try our free online Best Workplace Assessment.
Claire Harrison is the Founder and Managing Director of Harrisons, a flourishing HR consulting business that sprouted in 2009 from Claire’s passionate belief that inspiring leaders and superstar employees are the key success factor to any business. With over 20 years’ experience, Claire has worked as a HR Director of multi-national organisations, as a Non-Executive Board Director, and a small business owner. Claire’s corporate career includes working with companies such as BHP, Westpac, Fonterra and Mayne Nickless.