Three Instances When Leaders Need to Communicate More

Leoni Janssen
The truth is, as a leader or CEO, it is almost impossible to over-communicate. In fact, over-communicating is an art.

The truth is, as a leader or CEO, it is almost impossible to over-communicate. In fact, over-communicating is an art. For people who don’t have the natural tendency to constantly repeat the direction and put all smaller moving items in context, they may feel like they come across as a broken record or even patronizing, but that is never the case. As the famous Alex Irvine quote goes: “It’s better to tell someone something they already know than to not tell them something they needed to hear.”

The art of over-communicating is a skill that takes practice, but when mastered will enable you to move fast in a business where everyone is focused on what matters the most. More and better communication helps leaders to overcome the majority of pain points in their organization. And while we know many successful CEOs are famously introverted, their success lies in their ability to act like an extrovert in many ways. Communicating is never done and hardly ever done enough.

Three instances when leaders need to step up

Below I have summarized three instances when it’s essential for leaders to step up and communicate more than they normally would. Only by communicating well and often can you create a company culture underpinned by empathy and with a clear direction to all involved, without having to give anyone marching orders.

1. When you are in front of a new crowd

Even a seasoned CEO who steps into a new situation needs to learn every aspect of the current and optimal state quickly, and tap into all the different audiences to understand what it is they need from him/her. A great CEO wants to earn trust and respect from everyone in the business, while it’s human nature and a natural reaction for people to be skeptical about change. Therefore a new crowd always requires a higher frequency and intensity of interaction. The old crowd knew you, and trusted you (hopefully) because you had a positive impact on them over time in many different ways. Earning trust and respect from a new crowd takes time ánd interaction. They need to understand you, hear you, experience you and your approach.

Every touch point will shape their opinions and their enthusiasm for the work you do for them and in return they do for you. It’s proven that people only remember something if they have seen or heard it multiple times. And they only believe, like, and get on board with you if the message is consistent, clear, caring and committed given their context, and is then told, shown and retold in many different shapes and forms.

People need to see and experience new leaders in order to accept, trust and follow them.

2. When change is happening

In times of insecurity or change people need to see their leaders. Not because they are afraid but because they need to be reassured that the people in charge are doing the right thing. As a seasoned horse(wo)man I can tell you that as long as I let my horse know that I have seen and judged the potential danger of an approaching car as harmless (by a sign as subtle as having turned my head and staying unmoved while facing the potential danger), the horse will follow my lead and carry on. If I don’t notice the car because I am not paying attention, the horse is way more likely to panic because of the lack of mental leadership.

Letting people know you have got this, this change, the growth jump, this new geography, this new market approach set up, this new positioning, this new massive customer or the lack of one, is crucial to keep the power flowing. A massive incline in revenue (organic or an-organic) looks great on paper (see below). Yet the experience of people in the organization is better resembled by how people feel in a roller coaster (and I am not a fan) than an elevator.

Your people need to see and hear your views and vision for the future. Show that you see the opportunities and threats that they see, show your energy, flex your metaphorical muscle, show people what you’re made of.

How people feel in companies during exceptional growth versus what the revenue development tells us.

3. When you are over competent, under confident

This is a character description of a CEO who has achieved everything in their lives by learning, constantly improving and making things perfect. Possibly an introvert, a perfectionist or both. Their success was not based on bluff, fluff or sales talk but on having genuine knowledge and understanding for the situation at hand.

They feel ‘talk is cheap’ and that the best way to lead is through action, which they believe speaks louder than words. They don’t like to do things they aren’t 100% sure about.

For this group, communicating to a wider audience, outside their direct reach is ‘hard work’, not very natural and something they will have to make themselves do, by discipline. And don’t forget your actions dó speak but some people might miss the gesture or don’t see your actions - being remote or not in the room.

If this is you, try this:

- Create a cadence, a format and start to communicate by habit, according to plan, and run it like a Swiss clock.

- When you’re communicating, create the voice-over, say why you are doing things. Make it explicit, use exact words, don’t let people guess.

- Allow yourself to do things half baked, even be a fool. If you are unsure, ask others whose standard you trust. Yours is probably too high to get out of the garage at all.

- Let others help you, put them in charge and follow their lead. You have other qualities and since this is not one of your favorite things, you are likely to be in your own way a lot.

Thinking is great, yet the brilliance of ideas are only experienced when shared with others.

The best leaders are well articulated, align their actions to their talk and get really consistent. Nobody likes a silverback big mouth with zero knowledge showing his pearly whites as often as possible. Equally, the competent CEO that always has polished shoes but never shows them, will not be a leader people empathize with and naturally want to follow either.

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