Do I have to say it too? “Communication is the backbone of good leadership.” Hasn’t it been said enough already? Aren’t there enough books, training programs, and speeches out there to drive home the point?
Then why are so many people in leadership positions clueless? Why don’t they communicate well, at the right time, and with the right message?
There seem to be four extremes. Leaders who:
- Have nothing to say
- Don’t know what to say or how to say it
- Talk but say nothing
It’s so frustrating. As employees we need and want information that positions us to do great work, make sound decisions, and support the company. It’s what builds our morale, loyalty, optimism, and willingness to do more.
Unfortunately, we often work for people who hoard what they know, believing that their value and influence are connected to their “insider” information.
When leaders are disconnected from us, they often have no idea about what information we find useful like:
- The state of the business
- The attitudes of customers
- The competition
- Our performance
- Career opportunities
- New products, equipment, and services
- Processes and policies
When these leaders aren’t tuned into us, we’re left out.
The light only comes on if you throw the switch.
One day I got a call from a veterinarian with a large and small animal practice. At the time I was doing a good bit of veterinary practice management consulting.
He told me that he thought he had a problem I could help him with.
“What’s your situation?” I asked.
“My associate veterinarian is leaving at the end of his one year contract,” he explained.
“I see. What’s unique about that?”
”He’s the tenth one to leave in ten years,” he replied.
“Do you know why?” I asked.
“No. That’s why I’m calling you.”
So I went and I watched and asked questions. It didn’t take long to see that the owner was a man who wanted no part of management. He just wanted to treat animals, particularly farm animals. He didn’t want to deal with employees, so he never engaged with them.
The silence of the lambs tells the story.
While conducting my practice walk-through, I saw the associate veterinarian and the technician in the operating room where they had delivered twin lambs by C-section. The ewe’s incision was being closed and the tech was on the floor trying to give CPR to the two lambs. She needed help.
I put down my papers and got down on the floor with her, taking one of the lambs and blowing into its nostrils, trying to get its lungs to work.
While the young veterinarian, the tech, and I were giving our all, the owner walked into the OR, looked at the ewe and at us. He then turned and walked out, never saying a word. No encouragement. No suggestions. No solace. Nothing.
In spite of our efforts, both lambs died. The ewe had been in labor too long. We were all distraught, though relieved that the ewe lived.
In my consulting report, I gave a straight-forward description of the factors that likely contributed to the departure of those ten associates. Ultimately, the owner closed his small animal practice to become a crop farmer, providing veterinary services to farm animals on his own. He realized his limitations and refocused on doing what he loved and did best.
It’s a pity when leaders don’t see how their inability to communicate negatively impacts their employees, themselves, and the business. So much time and energy are lost.
Follow the clues. Solve the mysteries.
Poor communicators are costly to their companies. They waste time, cause errors, drive away good employees, and gum up the works. To be business fit we have to communicate effectively. It’s the backbone of staying connected, attracting a following, and taking the lead. When things aren’t going quite right for you, look at how you’re communicating. You’ll never regret it!
Have you had a clueless boss? Was communication his/her issue or something else? We’re dying to know!