“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”
These were the words of Mahatma Gandhi – a visionary, strategist, stellar leader, and nation builder.
Companies too need leaders who can get along with their people. And not just get along with them, but take them along in their journey.
Leaders who can walk shoulder-to-shoulder with their employees – consider them their equals, share with them their vision and values, be transparent in decision-making, and even discuss openly the financial status of the company.
In other words, companies need open lines of communication…not just when new projects are launched or milestones achieved, but at every juncture: After board meetings to announce new policies and decisions, before/after the exit of senior members – to avoid any speculation, after losing revenue from a big client or a failed project, before merging with another entity, or exiting the market and shutting down operations.
Communicate for clarity
Employees today are well-informed and curious. If they are not given information through the right channels, they will seek them out on their own. This will eventually result in miscommunication, the spreading of rumours within the organisation, and a general dampening of morale…all leading to reduced productivity and a quick turnaround of human resources.
Thus, healthy communication should be at the forefront of management practices. Leaders should regularly convey key messages and decisions to their employees, or else employees will misinterpret the situation, causing confusion and chaos.
Lack of communication by top management eventually filters down…with line managers and team leaders also choosing to be silent with their teams. This can be a very unhealthy approach for the growth of an organisation.
Communicate to give a dream
The startup culture is also hampering communication in some way. We are fortunately or unfortunately living in an ideas’ economy, where proof of concept seems to be the overarching theme for all investors and management teams. New-age entrepreneurs may give investors a dream, but are sometimes unable to transfer that same vision to the people they are working with.
And that’s mainly because investors are looking for proof of concept and scalability, while employees are looking for long-term growth and sustainability. Employees are looking to be part of an organisation that values them over the idea – be it a failed or a successful one.
Moreover, when startups scale nowadays, it is mostly as a result of funding. This may lead to quick hires, but equally quick lay-offs. This uncertainty is having an adverse impact on employees. It’s making them insecure, confused and at times even frustrated…
Communicate to grow talent
Communication becomes an important tool to help you manage and engage your employees better. When people are free to express themselves, they become confident enough to approach management teams for support – support to help them grow their talents and goals, even as they help organisations achieve their visions and targets.
For human talent to grow, organisations need to build an eco-system that allows them to flourish, an eco-system that allows two-way communication, where both leaders and teams can freely share and seek advice for solutions in collaboration.
Author and former presidential speechwriter James Humes said, ‘The art of communication is the language of leadership.’ This art takes years of practice, understanding, patience and experience…
Here are some tenets to make communication more effective in your organisation:
Direction: A direction or objective should be set at the start of most crucial meetings. You should know why you need to communicate to your employees and what they should take away from those conversations. Direction here also means to regularly communicate which direction the company is headed in, the targets set – for a particular projects or the year – and how the management envisions achieving those.
Discussion: Discussions help you get a buy in from your employees and make them more involved as a team. Discussion time is especially important when new products or services are being launched. It’s important to get a wide array of views, from within the organisation itself, before you embark on anything new. This could help you understand the feasibility of projects better. When working on projects, discussions help teams make crucial decisions, brainstorm on problems faced, risks involved, and any course correction needed.
Conversation: A conversation is always two-ways. There is a sender and a receiver, there are moments of silence, and then there is talking. Thus, an important part of conversations is to take in the other person’s viewpoint as well. In companies, conversations needn’t always be formal…sometimes just going up to an employee and casually engaging them in conversation will help you understand the problems they face. Casual conversations can sometimes be more effective than official meetings with the same agenda.
Trust: Trust takes years to build. But if the intention to build it is clear, then everything you do will reflect that. For example, when hiring a new team member you will earn more trust from your team if you include them in the decision-making process. The second round of interviews should always include more than just the team leader; it should include those who will work closely with the candidate, and some members from other cross-functional teams… This will also help you make a better hiring decision.
Fairness: Being fair again is a relative and abstract concept… Many leaders know that no matter how much they do, in any dispute or conflict, one party will always get offended, and it is difficult to appease both sides. But sometimes being fair can simply mean giving employees a chance to clearly state the reasons for a failed project or anything else that is troubling them. It’s about giving people a fair hearing, and allowing them to freely express themselves. As a leader, this will also help you fairly assess the situation from all sides, and provide a solution without any favouritism or biases.
Feedback: Feedback should be sought from employees at all times. To help them become a part of the process of building your organisation, include their views and ideas in important matters. A good way of doing this is by having regular meetings with teams, and creating open forums where everyone’s views are sought. From a new entrant to an employee who’s been in your company for more than 10 years, give each one a chance to share their feedback on the topic concerned.
Bob Chapman, Chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, a capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, in a YouTube video said, “Very few people say I wish I worked for a company like that.’ This sentiment largely emerges in organisations where communication is rife: Communication in good times and bad, communication in times of conflict and communication when in peace.
If you too wish to become a company where employees aspire to work and build their future, we have a few programs to help you structure more effective communication in your organisation. For more details, write in to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Ritika Bajaj is a prolific writer and editor, focusing on people, startups, and the finer nuances of life. She is currently a content consultant, generating ideas and providing solutions for online and offline mediums. Ritika describes herself as a spiritual seeker, voyager, and change agent, constantly finding ways to make life richer and more meaningful.