Throughout my career in the Marine Corps as I developed as a leader I often heard of different traits or principles that make a good leader. Sometimes it was the “14 Leadership Traits” of a leader and sometimes a few characteristics or principles printed on a card. While they all were worthy of consideration and would certainly strengthen anyone’s journey to being a better leader, there was one piece that often seemed to be missing…communication. In nearly four decades of service, it became abundantly clear to me that an individual’s approach to communication often separated one of many leaders from a great leader.
Importance of Communication
So what is it about communication that is so important? It’s not just “what” you communicate but “how”, “when” and to “whom.” Every aspect of communication can make you a much stronger leader that will have a significant impact on those you lead and ultimately your organization’s success.
Before you examine your communication skills it’s important to take a look at “what” you are communicating. In short, you need a plan. As a leader, you have to know what success looks like. As well as, what conditions must be met to get your team there. To succeed in their mission, a leader must know what the current state of their organization is and what must be done to move from that current state. Along the way, it is important to know what milestones you would expect to see on your pathway to success. So that if you are on-path you’ll know whether you are on or off the path. Which helps you make timely course corrections.
This approach to planning keeps you from being a spectator when you need to be the lead participant. The “When” of your plan, must be communicated often to your team. Communicate, communicate and when you think you’ve done enough, do it again. Everyone must know with clarity where it is you wish the team to go. Make sure you include your team in the planning as well. It’s a really good way to make the mission theirs…they have a sense of ownership with you.
The “how” is equally important. Talk with your team, not at them. As I mentioned before, include them in the journey so they have a sense of ownership with you. In the end, it will make your job much easier as you begin to guide course corrections vice constantly pushing for something that others don’t see as clearly as you do. This approach will also make you a better listener.
The last two points bring into focus the “who” it’s important to communicate with. Everyone! The junior person in your organization all the way to the most senior person has something to contribute. You just have to be listening to hear it. Whether it’s your team’s approach that might be different from yours or a different perspective that might help shape the organization’s goal, everyone has something to offer. A superb leader I was listening to during an address on leadership told us that, in essence, we should walk into a meeting or a discussion willing to be convinced. That doesn’t mean we had to be convinced. But it was important to listen and consider what you heard. More importantly, how it might be leveraged for your team’s success. I always thought that was great advice.
The road to being a really good leader is a fascinating journey. There are many parts to it and all deserve your attention along the way. I would offer that leadership and communication should be worthy of a considerable amount of your attention and effort and will ultimately take your leadership journey to the next level.