Go Back
Communication can define an outstanding leader, yet even the most seasoned CEOs risk tumbling into traps that undermine their authority and alienate their team.

Many businesses see communication as a technical transaction, mistakenly believing that if leaders hold regular meetings and learn to write emails that don’t waffle on too much, they’re kicking communication goals.

Those elements count, but truly effective communication is far more nuanced. Don’t buy into the myth that it’s a soft skill. In truth, it’s the glue that holds your organization together.

If you want to get people to sit up, take notice and act on your information, work on staying out of these common traps:

Holding out for Certainty

When was the last time you had all the answers on an issue in your business? Probably never.

In an increasingly uncertain world, your teams are looking to you for a glimmer of certainty – yet often leaders wait to communicate because they don’t yet have all the information.

Whether it’s an emerging opportunity, a tricky issue or an upcoming change, communicate early about what you know – and what you don’t yet know. If you can’t talk about a specific element, say what you can and explain why you can’t say more.

Reduce uncertainty where possible and provide a sense of solidarity about what’s not yet known, so people don’t feel they’re alone in their concerns.

Leaders who are outstanding communicators think long-term, creating connections that endure.

Preaching from On High

Back in the day, communication was often a top-down affair. Channels were limited and leaders could save up information and formally announce it in a company newsletter.

These days your workplace has a turbocharged grapevine; people can see into the engine room of your business and are communicating on more back channels than you could possibly count.

Official communication still has an important place but reinforce it with ongoing conversations and other less formal interactions. Create an environment of humans sharing information rather than transactions involving message senders and receivers.

Hit and Miss Communication

The middle of a problem isn’t the time to start talking to your team, only to cut off the flow when things settle down.

Communicate deliberately and consistently all year round, in the good times and bad. Create a cadence of messaging so people know when to expect information – and when they’ll need to ask their own questions.

Don’t be put off if there’s no urgent issue to discuss. There will always be something to say and your team members want to hear it from you.

Every time you communicate with your team, you’re adding fibers to the strands that join humans together in trusting relationships.

Over-Playing the Upside

The old song Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive might make a good mantra for daily living, but it’s not a recipe for authentic communication in the workplace.

When there’s trouble brewing or a decision has been made that employees aren’t likely to welcome, many leaders opt to emphasize the positive aspects and downplay the full impact. Sometimes this stems from a fear of difficult conversations. While it might make things more comfortable in the short-term, it demands a hefty price in terms of lost trust.

When you need to deliver challenging news to your team, play it straight and don’t sugarcoat the facts. Be sensitive to the effect on individuals, but don’t try to shield them by vagueness or making the positives bigger than they really are while not explaining the potential downsides.

Thinking Short-Term

Every time you communicate with your team, you’re adding fibers to the strands that join humans together in trusting relationships. Leaders who are outstanding communicators think long-term, creating connections that endure. Those relationships transcend one-off transactions and stilted conversations, forming the essence of a culture of high performance in your business.

Neryl East

Contributor Collective Member

Neryl East is an award-winning speaker, credibility expert and author of five books. She’s worked with leaders at the highest level to stand out with credibility, especially when the pressure is on, and connect more effectively with their teams. Neryl has been a professional communicator for more than three decades, spanning a media career and senior roles in government and business. Her role as announcer at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 saw her speaking to huge crowds. For more information visit https://www.neryleast.com/

Back to top