Gone are the days of the “untouchable” CEO. Today, in order to be most effective, CEOs must make communication a top priority. Keeping management in the loop, whether you’re involved in an acquisition, a restructure or a crisis of sorts, is the key to getting through any challenge.
Unfortunately, it’s easy for leaders to default to poor communication, especially when there’s a problem. Below, 10 coaches from Forbes Coaches Council share their insights into how a CEO might unintentionally alienate his or her management team, and a few best practices for improving communication going forward.
1. Understand Every Individual’s Unique Communication Style
To be an effective leader, it is incumbent upon an executive to not just communicate openly with management teams but identify how individuals best communicate overall. One team member responds better to weekly 1:1 meetings; another thrives with “as needed” conversations. Great! Find each person’s ideal way to communicate and, when possible, go with that. Everyone will benefit from the support. – Emily Kapit, MS, MRW, ACRW, CPRW, ReFresh Your Step, LLC
2. Be Clear About What You Want, And Then Get Out Of The Way
CEOs foster disengagement when they hire a talented team and then either micromanage them or fail to empower them. A CEO will create an engaged and productive team if they clearly define the roles and responsibilities for each team member, discuss and define goals and deliverables, and then empower the team to lead their own team and meet the agreed upon goals. – Julie Kantor, PhD, JP Kantor Consulting
3. Avoid Taking Superstars For Granted
You must avoid assuming the rockstars will stay rockstars. Taking top notch talent for granted can be a huge mistake. Hard workers desire recognition for their effort from their superiors. Yet when the big bosses take all the hard work without so much as a heartfelt “thank you,” you start asking why. – Doug Thorpe, Headway Exec
4. Avoid “I Want” Or “I Need” Statements
When a C-Level (or any) leader consistently starts sentences with phrases like “I want you to,” or ”I need you to,” etc., it gives the impression that everything is about the leader and not the team, causing greater alienation. Instead, phrase things in a way that invites input through the use of “us,” we” and “our.” Asking “What are your thoughts about how we can improve?” goes a long way. – Lisa Downs, DevelopmentWise Consulting
5. Stop Talking So Much
We know you were promoted because you are knowledgeable and know how to make things happen. What I hear from C-suite level execs is that they wish the CEO would ask them what they think. And then stop talking. It happens to managers at all levels. Part of it is the pace business is moving. Deliberately creating space to listen lets your staff know you want to hear what they have to say. – Mary Schaefer, Artemis Path, Inc.
6. Check Your Bias
It is easy to alienate a team by rapidly assuming poor performance is due to a lack of ability or effort rather than situational factors. Being aware of this tendency aids effective communication. Next time you find yourself coming to a negative conclusion about someone’s character or ability, ask yourself: What situational factors could be affecting this individual’s performance or behavior? – Lianne Lyne, PLP Coaching, LLC
7. Practice The Golden Rule
Leading everyone in the same manner is a sure way to unintentionally alienate and have communication breakdowns. CEOs who want to stay connected and communicate effectively should practice the Golden Rule which says, “Do unto others as they would have done unto you.” This requires a CEO to go beyond their personal preferences and learn how their people prefer to engage, communicate and be communicated with. – Michelle Braden, MSBCoach, LLC
8. Link Directives Back To Purpose
An easy way for a CEO to alienate his/her team is to give orders and directives without context. An easy way to fix this is to link each decision you communicate back to the company’s core purpose, values, mission or vision. This gives context and support for why decisions are being made and why they are important. Of course, the company needs to have those items defined first. – Greg DeSimone, Catapult Advisory Group
9. Clarify, Communicate, Confirm, Connect
These four C’s are required for communication. Often CEOs clarify and communicate, and that’s where the conversation ends and the communication wheels come off the bus. Make sure you spend at least half your conversation time confirming and connecting with yourmanagement team. A challenge: Ask your team what three areas are most important right now. You will be shocked by their answers. – Dean Miles, Bridgepoint Coaching & Strategy Group
10. Be Transparent And Keep People In The Loop
Withholding information can shut down creativity and communication and decrease morale. Keeping your team in the loop is one of the top three contributors to job satisfaction. Don’t create a team of yes men. If you want to keep the ideas flowing, let your people know how their ideas impact your decisions. Transparency is key, but it’s not about simply saying what you are doing but why you are doing it. – Michelle Tillis Lederman, Executive Essentials