Two of my favorite words in management are communication and brevity. Too many managers who should know better spend inordinate amounts of time talking too much and writing memos that tend to confuse rather than clarify.
Get to the point
A clear message engages, motivates listeners
In a new book, Radical Trust: How Todays Great Leaders Convert People to Partners, Joe Healey, a highly respected consultant, offers advice on my pet topics. Healey believes that brevity helps you gain influence; people are more willing to listen to speakers who are good at getting to the point. The key to brevity and trust is transparency. Any communication should be devoid of a hidden agenda. Nobody should have any cause for doubt that what is being said is what is truly meant.
Healey quotes Joe Croce, who got involved in finance after selling CiCis Pizza. Croce was attending an investment meeting in New Yorks financial community and shared an observation about the cost of the lack of transparency. I was sitting through a pitch to a group of investors from some guys who had Harvard MBAs. They were very intelligent and had an attractive plan in many regards. However, all 10 of us on the investment committee voted no to the deal because there was no transparency. These deals were worth 8 to 10 figures in total, so there was a lot at stake. But yet the real issue with these very bright guys is they did not get our trust or our money because of our gut feeling that there was a lack of transparency.
Healey says that leaders have to let others know of their own biases and potential conflicts of interest. Often when they do not, someone discovers those biases and conflicts, calling into question whether they can trust such a leader.
He also delves into the subject of how a leader should speak no evil about others. Questioning other peoples integrity or character flaws, even when someone has harmed you in some way, is simply not the right thing to do, Healey says. It creates a negative atmosphere and endangers peoples trust. People want to know that they can make mistakes without being called out publicly, so even if someone has done something really terrible, it is never a good idea to speak negatively about others. Simply get on with the business at hand and avoid the urge to get back at people.
When really effective leaders communicate, they manifest conviction and passion. They know their stuff and exude confidence in their abilities to lead and speak. They dont display arrogance, never speak in a condescending tone and they say what they have to say in clear and concise terms.
Over the years Ive watched some leaders talk and talk to a group of colleagues and even to customers, while managing to say virtually nothing of consequence. Thereafter, what they have to say is treated as inconsequential and discarded.
Conversely, when people trust leaders, all kinds of wonders can happen, Healey writes. Innovation and productivity are essential to the health and profitability of any business, but seldom happen unless a leader is engaged with his or her people fully and authentically. The message in Healeys book is that real leaders ask others to become partners in an adventure filled with risk, challenge and sacrifice. By trusting others, leaders know they will receive support and the best efforts of their colleagues.
Trust, total transparency and integrity are radical notions in todays business world. Too many people find them scary. Again and again, however, you read stories like Healeys about successful leaders, and all of them have adopted those three tenets. Class always wins because we all want to follow leaders we believe in.
Charles S. Lauer is the former vice president- publishing and editorial director of Modern Healthcare. He now is a consultant to the healthcare industry and also serves on the boards of healthcare companies.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.