Leadership Update is a free electronic monthly newsletter. In it, you’ll find strategies for helping you realize your full professional potential.
- Quotable: The Pundits Speak
- Communication: Say it Face to Face
- Delegating: Why It’s So Difficult
- Readers’ Forum: Your Observations
- Subscription Information
QUOTABLE: THE PUNDITS SPEAK
“Like a ten-speed bike, most of us have gears we do not use.” — Charles Schulz
“I don’t have E-mail. I force my people to get in touch with me. And it takes an effort. And it must be important, then, too.” — Charles Wang, CEO, Computer Associates International
COMMUNICATION: SAY IT FACE TO FACE
Four CEOs recently gathered at the New York Times to take part in a roundtable discussion about leadership. The executives – Lawrence A. Bossidy of Allied Signal, L. Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco International, Shelly Lazarus of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide and Charles B. Wang of Computer Associates International – were all featured in the book Lessons from the Top: The Search for America’s Best Business Leaders, by Thomas J. Neff and James M. Citrin.
Among the many issues they discussed was communicating effectively with employees. And while there was some agreement that e-mail is a convenient method, they seemed to agree that the most powerful way to get your message across is face to face.
“Something happens when you are in the room with people with whom you work, trying to solve a problem together or just listening to them,” said Lazarus. Kozlowski agreed: “… it takes a lot of face-to-face time, a lot of travel on my part, to be able to articulate our goals and where we’re going.”
The reasons why face-to-face communication is so effective seem obvious … it shows your employees that they’re important to you … that you value a free exchange of ideas … that you’re listening to what they’re saying.
But there’s an even more basic reason why talking face to face might just be the most effective way to communicate anything in business, and it has to do with your brain. The function of understanding words is controlled by one part of the brain, while another part controls the function of appreciating the emotional quality of language. So, if you want to deliver a message with maximum impact, you have to stimulate both parts, and that’s extremely difficult to do through the written word.
Not surprisingly, many clients report that their e-mail messages are often misunderstood by recipients. E-mails intended to be humorous are interpreted as nasty, or subtle criticisms are read as severe rebukes. The absence of the appropriate “tone” leads to miscommunication in writing.
Even in face to face communication, according to studies by Birdwhistell, a communications researcher, the actual words you use convey only about 7% of your message. 38% of the communication is conveyed by your tone of voice, and 55% is communicated by your body language.
The implications of the CEOs’ observations, basic brain functioning, and the communications studies are that if you have an important or emotional message to convey, saying it face to face is the best way to do it.
Examples of messages you should try to deliver face to face:
- setting forth major company or group goals
- gaining support for a specific project
- asking employees to put forth extra effort for special projects
- announcing major organizational changes
- correcting mistakes
Examples of messages appropriate for e-mail:
- exchanging facts
- providing updates on the status of a project
- requesting/giving approval for specific activities
- announcing personnel changes
- delivering general company-wide news
When it’s not practical or possible to meet with employees face to face, call them to discuss important items, reserving voice-mail or e-mail as a last resort.
For more information on improving communication throughout your organization, call Dr. Weiman at 610/642-3040. I’ll arrange for us to meet face to face.
DELEGATING: WHY IT’S SO DIFFICULT
The head of an international manufacturing firm still approves the purchase of wiper blades a pair at a time for company cars. The managing partner of a law firm individually initials the each photocopy of firm-wide memos to make sure that each one is copied correctly. The president of a major electronics distributor decides what sodas will be sold in the warehouse soda machine.
While many business leaders are proud of the fact that they are “hands-on,” examples like those above illustrate the fact that the line between effective management and in-effective micro-management is broad and blurry.
According to Warren Bennis’s book On Becoming A Leader, a key leadership skill is the ability to delegate. But delegating even the most minute tasks makes many organizational leaders so anxious that they’re compelled to do those tasks themselves. Even when it’s clearly not in the company’s best interests for a top executive to waste valuable time approving the purchase of minor items like wiper blades.
So why do so many executives do the little things themselves? The more minute the task, the more likely that the executive is either having trouble relinquishing control to other people in general, or that they are experiencing a loss of control in some area of the company or in their private life.
While the executive gains a feeling of control by making as many decisions as possible, the losses to the company can be substantial, including:
- loss of the executive’s time, needed for more important activities like guiding the company or finding new business
- loss of self-confidence among subordinates
- conflicts with subordinates over decision-making control
- making entire staffs feel like children by having to request permission for minor purchases or activities
There are a variety of ways of redistributing responsibilities so that executives are free of the details, including creating a simple diary of tasks over the course of a week or two and then identifying those that can be delegated, who could do them and how they should be done. But redistributing the tasks isn’t the difficult part … it’s helping a top executive or departmental manager see the negative impact of what they believe is not only positive but necessary.
If you’re having difficulty letting go of details, or if you’re frustrated by a manager who is, contact Dr. Weiman at 610/642-3040 to discuss solutions to the problem.
READERS’ FORUM: YOUR OBSERVATIONS
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