Rethink how to communicate. Lately I have been thinking a lot about leadership communications. My thoughts centre on why it is that a lot of leaders seem to be poor communicators. This seems especially true as they lead teams in times of transformation, change and disruption – which is a space we focus on in my consulting firm, Caterpillar Farm, Inc.
I suspect this communications issue may be even greater for Maverick Leaders. Let me explain.
Why good communications is critical in dynamic times
Times of disruption and change are likely the most challenging times for leaders. Rather than driving your team to deliver consistent, solid execution you need to help your team transform, adapt to changing environments, be agile in how they are working … and still deliver success. Many leaders come up through the ranks refining their ‘operator’ skills. These skills focus on traits like efficiency, consistency, and reliability. In many types of business environments it is the company that is best at these skills that earns competitive advantage. In dynamic times of disruption, whether your organisation is being disrupted or you are being the industry disruptor, being a solid operator is not enough. In these times you and your team need to be a bit more unconstrained by operational efficiency and more focused on understanding and reacting to forces that are changing your environment. And you need to be open to changing things about you, your team and how they work in order to thrive going forward. In these types of times solid change communications is key. And often leaders are unprepared to deliver. Change leaders need to constantly communicate a consistent, clear and compelling vision of the future and rally the team toward that future in ways that are specific and actionable. Nothing can change without great communications. And several academic studies indicate that during times of change, disruption and transformation leaders need to communicate to their teams 10 times more than they currently do in order to drive a change forward. So while the need for change communications is great, leaders are often unprepared or underinvest in the challenge. Change communications and Maverick Leaders Maverick leaders understand the importance of leadership influence, the art of understanding people and the dynamics of how to influence them. Yet while leadership communications is key to unlocking true influence, I am not sure even Maverick leaders fully actualise the dynamics of successful change communications required in the description above. Do maverick leaders tend to fall into a trap of more classic ‘command and control’ communications, directing their teams to elevate their efforts and performance but not reinforcing the requirements of organizational agility against a clear vison that change leadership demands? I suspect that many do, and I suggest that effective Maverick Leaders – and all leaders – refocus efforts on key drivers of successful strategic change communications: • Paint the Future State: Leverage elements of great storytelling to energise a movement about why and how the future is compelling as the team contemplates transformations. • Focus on the HOW: Reinforce that change is happening and connect that to HOW the team might act / behave differently. • Reinforce agility: Make sure communications empower not just inform. Build a platform of nimbleness and responsiveness to avoid keeping the team locked into ‘legacy systems’ constraints. • Heavy up the Comms: High touch, frequent and multi-modal communications ensure leaders are reaching, engaging and reinforcing key change messages. Maverick leaders are well positioned to be great change communicators. Investing in being better communications skills and practices can drive them to be powerful change cultivators in their organisations.