Why Don’t Leaders Communicate

Most readers of this blog must have felt at some time or the other that their leaders do not communicate enough.

Communication from the top is key, when it comes to happy, healthy organizations.

As a stakeholder, I want to know where we are going.  How good is the future for my organisation and therefore, for me.

Lack of such communication creates heartburn. It is one of the biggest factors contributing to employee turnover after “bad boss”.

We know this. The question then is, is why don’t leaders then communicate?  I am talking here specifically about organisation wide messages that CEOs need to send to their employees.

I think, leaders know that communication is important.  The reality however is: it is tough to communicate!

Here’s why:

1.  Not having a clear idea of the future.

Listeners are looking for clarity on where the organisation is headed.  This clarity is often not there.  Leaders know what they are going to TRY but not always about how things are going to turn out.  Leaders don’t want to wind themselves up in knots with this.

2.    Wanting to look in control

Leaders feel the burden of expectation of being the one with all the answers.  Reality is, they don’t. It is tough to stand up and say so.

3.  Need to have winning news

This MD friend of mine thought that we should have a town hall meeting only when we had clinched a big deal.  “Else”, he would ask “what is there to tell?”

It feels nice to stand up and proudly announce winning news.  But that may not always be the case.

4.  Not making commitments

Leaders need to make forward looking statements.  It is a headache to publicly make commitments and put that pressure on oneself.

5. Keeping options open

Leaders find it easier to use “unofficial channels” to communicate ideas in ways that allow them to keep other options open.  They find this much more “manageable”.

6. Managing expectations

Listeners are looking for BIG news from leaders.  Often, progress is achieved in small steps.  So, even when the organisation is inching forward as it should, leaders find it tough to manage expectations people have from such “events”.

So, next time you catch yourself complaining about this, give your top management some rope.  Take the initiative to talk to them about where the organisation is going.   Don’t expect clear answers always.  But keep talking.

Take The Lead

Don’t wait for such town halls.  If your company is listed, you will definitely be able to see the financials.  The best place to understand the business is by looking at cashflows.  If you are not familiar with this subject, read up.

Understand what the operating cashflows are and how they have changed over time. If the reports provide department wise or BU wise cashflow details, understand which businesses are generating more cash than others.

Take an interest in knowing the company’s strategy and ask questions when you can.

What Is My Purpose

At the core of the communication question is the question of purpose.  Purpose is the meaning that we derive for our work.   This is not just vision or mission.  It is the reason why we as an organisation exist.  It is how we contribute to the world.

Sadly, sometimes leaders fail to communicate even this.

Find out the purpose that your organisation stands for.  Next, build a mental link between your work and the purpose.

Here is an example from a company that makes specialized software products that banks use to process payments.  “Payments is the pulse of every business.  We keep that pulse ticking.”

As a programmer working in the company put it “When I write code I imagine that somebody’s heart operation is waiting for a payment to reach.  My program makes that happen- swiftly, efficiently, without errors.”

You are not alone in that cubicle.

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