The Most Important Thing a Leader can do

Talk too much.

Kinda goes against my feelings on being clear and concise – but bear with me on this 🙂

I recently read a great article called ’42 Rules to Lead by from the Man Who Defined Google’s Product Strategy’ and the first rule really clicked with me because it’s something I strongly believe in:

#1 Be a broken record.

“When you think you’ve communicated something too much, you’re probably just beginning to get through,” says Rosenberg, stressing the importance of all-hands meetings, regular emails, office hours and team off-sites. Even if you’re truly surrounded by the smartest people you’ve ever met, assume all of them are busy with a hundred other things on their mind. “There is no such thing as too much communication.”’

It took me a while to get comfortable with the idea that communication is probably one of the most important parts of a senior management role.

The truth is that it is really hard to get a significant amount of people to a) believe in a certain direction and then b) pull the same way.

And in my experience this really only happens when you obsess about over-communicating goals & strategy and strive to share as much information with your team as you can.

Don’t assume everyone is priveldge to the information you are or even thinks (or cares) about this stuff as much as you – they probably don’t.

As the author of the article said, everyone has a hundred other things on their mind – so it really takes a significant over-communication effort from the leaders in the business for things to properly sink in with everyone.

I wrote a post a while back called ‘Great Companies Do These 3 things Well’ in which I talked a bit about being able to wake up any person in your team during their sleep and that they should be able to give you a straight answer to the teams goals and key strategies to achieve them. For me, that’s the real test. If people can’t give you a straight, clear answer then you’re not doing a good enough job on communication.

If you manage other managers, it’s essential that you encourage them to over-communicate too – you can’t do this alone. Sure, you can stand in front of your team and company and talk through goals and strategy, however this needs to be re-enforced on a daily basis and more importantly in a relevant way, with context – and this is best done with people closer to the actual work.

Imagine how many decisions are made by your team or company every day?

Likely hundreds of micro-decisions and probably a fair few key ones too. If you expect people to make good decisions in line with your strategy, you must over-communicate on it.

Also don’t forget about using 121’s as an opportunity to over-communicate. I wrote a bit about this here.

You wouldn’t believe the difference over-communicating makes when it comes to execution and results. When you get it right, you really know – because it feels like everyone is firing on all cylinders.

A few tips

I’d recommend taking some time at the beginning of the week and also at the start of each day to consider what communications you need to make. If it’s not a conscious and proactive focus, it’s easy for it to get lost in day to day priorities.

Think about the channels of communication – you should use a good mixture of face to face (large and small groups, 121’s etc.), email, intranet and any other channels you have access to.

Lastly, here is a list of things I have found it useful to over-communicate on:

  • goals
  • strategy
  • key tactics
  • progress on goals
  • key decisions
  • highlighting and celebrating good work
  • sharing mistakes and lessons learned
  • leavers, new starters and promotions
  • hiring plan and progress
  • who is accountable for what

P.S – I’ve been pretty slack on writing lately – a mixture of priorities in my life, inspiration for topics and just falling out of the habit. Hoping to publish posts a bit more regularly in August!

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