C-level executives continue to tolerate things and procrastinate on taking action in areas that are dramatically affecting their company’s results. Among the most important issues business leaders are allowing to sabotage organizational results involve employee performance, such as team members that:
- Are not taking responsibility for their jobs and roles
- Need constant prodding to get things done
- Are not responsive to client requests
- Are not returning phone messages
- Are throwing their fellow employees “under the bus”
- Are having shouting matches in the office and on project sites
- Are using profanity when communicating with co-workers, clients and vendors
- Procrastinated on following through on business opportunities
- Are showing up late or leaving early with no explanation
- Have negative attitudes
- Complain about customers and co-workers
- Are “disappearing” during the day
The difference between mediocre organizations and “Champion Organizations” many times comes down to how leaders manage issues such as those outlined above. Many leaders feel challenged in managing performance and either, procrastinate on addressing issues and tolerate the results, or they address them with ineffective communication habits that sabotage their intended outcomes.
There are seven primary stylistic mistakes leaders regularly make when communicating to manage performance in their organization. The mistakes identified below are “The 7 Deadly Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication:”
Communication Sin #1: Lack of Specificity
This causes people on the receiving end of a communication to have to mind-read or guess as to what is being requested of them. Details are left out or are at best, vague. The recipient for many reasons fails to ask follow up questions to get specifics and have to figure it out on their own.
Communication Sin #2: Lack of Focus on Desirable Behaviors
People are great at saying what they don’t want or what they don’t want others to do, but have challenges identifying the behaviors they want instead. Where your focus goes, grows. As such, people are getting more of what they don’t want because they continue to focus on it.
Communication Sin #3: Lack of Directness
This is where people in organizations go behind the backs of their co-workers, peers, bosses and subordinates with water cooler gossip. Another example is the leader who tries to fix a problem that should be addressed to one person but calls a team meeting to offer a blanket directive. A third is when co-workers tell managers the mistakes co-workers make hoping to make themselves look good at the expense of someone else.
Communication Sin #4: Lack of Immediacy
This is procrastination. This is when communication is avoided because the conversations are difficult and leaders don’t know how to approach the offending party, so they choose not to.
Communication Sin #5: Lack of Appropriate Tone
Ever had someone in a professional setting raise his or her voice at you in a condescending or threatening manner? How about responding in a sarcastic manner? These are just two of the ways inappropriate tone ruin relationships and trust in company cultures.
Communication Sin #6: Lack of Focused Attention
In this day of technology and multi-tasking too many office conversations occur passing in the hallway, while one person is checking/responding to e-mails on their smart phone, or talking to us while on hold waiting for someone they will likely deem more important once they come on the phone. This fosters disrespect and low trust in organizations.
Communication Sin #7: Lack of Respectful Rebuttals
This may be the most common, yet subconscious of all seven leadership communication sins. It’s the conversations when someone agrees or provides positive feedback in the first part of their sentence, only to be followed by “but.” After the “but” comes the other shoe and you end up feeling misled and unfulfilled.
These seven leadership communication habits can cause significant damage to an organization’s culture, including negatively impacting employee morale, motivation and productivity. Long-term toleration of these communication styles can create a low-trust, highly toxic work environment.
The best organizations create an environment where leaders and their teams agree to communicate at a high level and hold each other accountable to overcoming these seven deadly sins of leadership communication.
To make this type of environment work organization leaders must bring high levels of humility to their approach, which is a topic for another day.