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Good communications can make or break a leader

06Aug Posted by Maria Shopova

When it comes to management skills, I think one of the most valued characteristics of a good business leader today should be their ability to communicate in a way that is engaging and breaks through the clutter.

There are a number of reasons as to why I think good communication skills are as important for managers as skills related to, for example, analytics or finance.

We live in an era of business disruptions, which are constantly changing the corporate landscape. As a result, companies find themselves navigating through a storm of challenging competitive, economic, social and political complexities, and mapping out a clear strategy has become their only way to survive. It’s the managers’ job to create that strategy for their companies, and they are usually very good at it. Where they can fail, however, is communicating that strategy in an actionable way to the rest of the employee population. As such, those mapped out strategies often remain on paper and are rarely put in good use.

Managers fail to communicate successfully due to a number of reasons, but I think two key ones have to do with their authenticity and ability to make communications clear and engaging.

The issues around waning trust towards companies and their leaders are too complex for me to discuss in this blog, but it’s important to note that without earning the trust of their people, senior managers have very little chance in persuading them to truly drive new strategies put in place.

In today’s world of information overload, more than ever before, senior managers also face the challenge of communicating their strategic vision in a way that is understandable and inspirational. Developing concise and impactful messages has always been important from a communications point of view, but I think business leaders have to go a step further and make what they are saying interesting for their target audience to consume.

In some cases, it can be all about leading by example, like in the case of Johnson & Johnson’s CEO Bill Weldon who to encourage employees to be more active, invited them to join him for frequent walks around the company’s corporate campus and made a personal commitment to complete 10,000 steps a day.

In other instances, it can be a dramatic gesture, like in the case of Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanquing who to show his appreciation to high performing staff, decided to use a $3 million bonus he received for the company’s record–setting year to reward 10,000 employees worldwide.

And finally, business leaders can learn from successful external communication initiatives, such as EDF Energy’s collaboration with linguistic analysis experts to highlight national sentiment of the Olympics via The London Eye. By monitoring Twitter feeds and examining the public’s references to the Games, EDF and their partner SoSo Limited, are able to communicate the public’s emotions through a captivating light show.

The examples above have a few principles in common. Firstly, they are all case studies showcasing how a complex communication was simplified through a charismatic gesture, image, visualisation, etc. Secondly, while each of these communication activities was supported by carefully crafted body of content, at the end of the day they all focus on capturing not only the minds, but also the hearts of employees. Thirdly, they are all driven by a level of creativity and investment that beats traditional expectations. Finally, all of these examples prove that going beyond the content can be a winning approach for business leaders to motivate and inspire in today’s information-laden world.

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