094 – 15 Messages Great Leaders Communicate + One Incredible Habit
Subscribe and Listen to the Your Best Manager Podcast!
Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
The Fundamentals of Management Series Kickoff Episode 46
Three Questions You Must Answer If You Want To Lead Others
Free Training – Time Management & Productivity for Busy Managers
How Managers Can Use ‘POSITIONING’ To Save Time & Increase Productivity
WITHOUT Getting Overwhelmed by Lengthy To-Do Lists, Confusing Time Management Systems and Unending Interruptions
Interview with Barry Posner, Co-Author of The Leadership Challenge
014 – Leadership is a Relationships, So Who Are You? with Barry Posner
Interview with Dave Stachowiak, Host of the Coaching For Leaders Podcast
041 – Teach People How To Help You, with Dave Stachowiak
Transcript from Today’s Episode:
Hey there, and welcome back to the Your Best Manager podcast. This is Jamie Newman here and I hope you are free of distractions for today’s show because I’m going to be talking about a very very important topic, Communication, but maybe more importantly, I’m going to be sharing something with you today that was probably one of, if not the, most valuable habits that I developed as an employee and certainly as a manager.
I’m going to be covering a lot today, so I really dive in, why don’t I give you a snapshot of where we are headed and where we are going and what we are going to cover.
So, this is continuing a series I’ve been running through most Mondays on the podcast here called the Fundamentals of Management, which kicked off in Episode 46 when I shared 3 questions you must answer if you want to lead others and it’s since then, it’s included core training on a manager’s primary responsibility, on how to hire, how to run meetings, and then how to train and how to coach employees.
Which brings us to another core manager skill that can make or break your effectiveness as a leader and can certainly impact your career growth or business growth – Communication Skills.
15 Messages Great Leaders Communicate + One Incredible Habit
So today I’ll be sharing with you 5 messages you need to be able to clearly communicate to everyone you interact with as a manager, and then 5 messages you need to be able to communicate down to your employees and 5 messages you need to be able to communicate up to your own boss.
Of course, if you are the business owner, if you are at the top, these may be some questions that you would want the managers on your team to communicate to you.
And you’ll want to make sure you listen until the end here today because that’s where I’ll be talking about that super valuable habit that I developed early on in my career which is something which I can easily point back to as being the catalyst for my own career growth.
You ready? Here we go.
What Is Communication?
When I look back on my professional career, I often end up looking back a few years earlier to some of the things I learned both in high school and college.
Now, I’ll be honest, I’m not usually the person singing praises of the educational system and I often wonder how things might have been different if I saved the $40,000 I spent on University and just jumped into the workforce to learn practical hands-on business skills.
But none the less, there are two classes that I credit as having a tremendous impact on the way that I communicate. In 12th grade, it was a creative writing class and in college, it was a business communications class.
In 12th grade, I was challenged to write, every day, in different ways. I was pushed and encouraged to find ways to put pen to paper and tell a story, or share a feeling, or convey an emotion. I was challenged to become a creative writer and that was huge for me.
And then in college, I think this was my senior year, I was taught in a business communications class, how communication actually works, both practically and theoretically.
That it’s not about saying the right things or using fancy language and deep vocabulary. It’s not about sentence structure or grammar… it’s about the ability to have a message and then get someone else to correctly interpret it and understand it.
Communication is Two-Way
And that last lesson is big. Because there are so many managers today who think they are communicating, but they get frustrated that although they give instructions to their employees or although they feel that they have been clear on what they expect… it’s just frustrating when it appears that no one listened or no one seemed to understand.
These same managers typically blame others for their shortfalls and feel like their employees have a thing or two to learn about working for them.
But communication is two-way, a message is transmitted and received. And the most effective communicators look at both of those things as their responsibility. The best communicators don’t just focus on delivering a message but they are equally focused on ensuring comprehension of that message. Making it consumable, making it understandable, making it receivable.
And at the end of the day, this is probably the main thing that I want you to walk away with;
The most valuable skill or ability you can master in your career or profession is this – The ability to have your message articulated in a way that people understand it.
That includes knowing what your message is and it includes considering your audience so that you can tailor your message to have the greatest possible impact.
It’s kind of like parenting.
I have a 4 year old and he actually has very good vocabulary for his age, but I need to understand that his experiences and his context for understanding are limited.
I’ll use death as an example, maybe morbid, but it’s a good example nonetheless.
So, my oldest son’s name is Jacob and he, fortunately, doesn’t have a ton of experience with death, and in most cartoons, death is temporary… think back to bugs bunny cartoons. Dynamite blows up, a character dies and a couple seconds later an angel-type character lifts them back up to earth to start over.
So, if I want to have a discussion about death with a 4-year-old, to teach him about safety and treating people well, I need to consider his capacity to understand. And so I’ll talk about the garbage truck, which takes away garbage, never to be seen again.
Just because he knows the word death, doesn’t mean he has the context to understand it.
And managing people, communicating professionally is similar. Just because people can understand the words you use, that doesn’t mean they have the context or the capacity to understand it.
Effective communicators understand this and their delivery then focuses not just on the transmitting of the message, but the receipt of that message.
Alright, and now that you’ve had your communication theory lesson for the day, let’s get practical on what you should be communicating professionally as a manager, as a leader.
5 Messages Every Leader Must Communicate
Let’s start with 5 messages that every leader, every manager, needs to be able to articulate to anyone within their organization or within their professional network.
- Who You Are
- What You Want
- Where You Think You’re At
- How You Can Help Others
- How Others Can Help You
If you can articulate those messages, you will be successful in your business or career.
Number 1 – Who You Are
This actually goes back to an interview I did with Barry Posner, one of the co-authors of the Leadership Challenge. And the point that Barry made during his discussion with me is that the first thing that anyone wants to know about their new manager or employee or really anyone they meet is this, who are you?
People want to make a judgement when they meet someone. That judgement is, is this someone that I want to spend time with?
And before this person you’ve met, again, whether they are your employee, your new boss or a new professional connection, before they can like you or trust you, they need to get to know you.
Which means the the first message you need to learn to articulate is who you are.
Number 2 – What Do You Want
After communicating who you are, you’ll want to communicate about your desires.
We are all on a journey. We are all going somewhere and we all have desires, dreams, goals, aspirations.. Something we are striving toward.
This, of course, is something that every person needs to figure out for themselves, but this is also something that should be communicated professionally to the people you engage with and interact with.
This is your motivation and the reasoning behind your actions and so communicating this does a couple of things. First of all, it can build camaraderie with those who want the same things, but it also starts the process of teaching people how to help you, which I’ll talk about in a moment. And finally, sharing what you desire also helps people understand why you do what you do.
I find this one really interesting because it can produces empathy, and I’m not even sure why… and if you are a psychologist, send me an email afterward because this stuff fascinates me.
I’m going to give a rather negative example to show you what I mean. If you have a boss who is always angry and you don’t know why… you will probably not like him or her. Makes sense.
But if you found out that your boss had an alcoholic father and a rough childhood, or if you found out that your boss was a new dad struggling with getting a good night’s rest, or if you found out that your boss was so passionate about driving results because of what success could mean to his or her family… you would then understand where the anger comes from, what’s motivating the actions, and then for some reason… you would likely be more willing to let it go, or you would have more patience for it, just because you understand where it comes from, even though those circumstances don’t make unnecessary anger, right?
Now, of course there are limits, but what I am referring to, ultimately, is that knowledge of what motivates people; the knowledge of why people do what they do, encourages empathy.
But anyway, psychology aside, professionals should learn to communicate their desires and their motivators… the reason why they act the way they do, as deep or as shallow as that might be.
Number 3 – Where You Think You’re At:
This one relates to the previous message and it really starts to reveal self-awareness and humility or vulnerability.
So if you’ve communicated who you are, and what you desire, you then want to communicate how you think you are doing at obtaining those desires.
As a leader, you could make this as simple as, I want to be a great leader, I want to be someone who inspires greatness and helps people reach their potential… but I’m not there yet, here is where I think I’m doing well and here is where I think I need improvement.
This type of self-awareness and humility… recognizing and admitting that you haven’t arrived yet, this builds trust and demonstrates that not only you desire to improve, but that you are going to be welcoming of feedback in those areas where you are lacking.
Number 4 – How You Can Help Others:
You can’t skip this one, unless you want to come across as a selfish narcissist.
But you’ve just articulated your strengths and weaknesses, so through this message, you can leverage your strengths and show others your interest, desires and intentions to use those strengths to better the people around you.
While the next message I’ll introduce, Number 5, how others can help you, is going to be your opportunity to leverage the strengths of others.
But this first one, how you can help others, this also goes back to the Know, Like, and Trust thing I mentioned earlier. People want to get to know you and then they need to make a decision if they like you and if they can trust you.
As self-absorbed as this may sound, that judgment is going to come down to a ‘what’s in it for me’ mindset. Your employees, your customers, and your boss are ultimately going to make a judgement call as to your value and worth to them.
So rather then making that discovery a game, why not learn how to communicate it and control the story they tell themselves about you? That’s the point of this message, to teach people why it’s in their best interest to know you… what you can do for them and what you want to do for them.
Which brings us to the last message that you should learn to communicate to everyone you interact with professionally.
Number 5 – How Others Can Help You.
This again relates back to your desires and where you are at in achieving those desires. But here’s the thing – people want to help you. We have a natural desire to help others… it feels good when we can contribute to others’ success. That’s how we are wired. There is joy to be found in other’s success when you’ve contributed to it, and there is pride that comes from being responsible, even partly, for something great.
As a leader, you can leverage that desire in others to help you achieve your own goals and ultimately so that you can serve more people through your increased influence. And at this point, if you’ve already learned to communicate who you are, what you want, where you think you’re at, and how you can help other people… you have now positioned yourself as someone others can know, like, and trust, and feel good about helping.
This isn’t about manipulation or persuasion. This is about giving people information that they want to know about you.
And this lesson stood out to me during an interview I conducted with Dave Stachowiak from the Coaching for Leaders podcast, which if you haven’t listened to that podcast before, you should definitely check it out, and I’ll make sure there is a link in the show notes for you.
But one of the best pieces of advice he said he was given when he started out, was this: Teach people how to help you.
There are so many people that you will come in contact with that can help you and are willing to help you, but literally don’t know what you want or need or how to help you get your wants and needs… so they don’t help you.
But if you could learn how to communicate these things, how to teach others how to help you, you can then leverage the strengths of the people you engage with, which not only helps you reach your goals but also helps others feel like valuable contributors… whether they are your employees, your partners, your friends, or even your boss.
So those are the 5 messages that every manager, leader, and professional should learn to communicate.
5 Messages Every Leader Must Communicate To Employees
Now we’re going to get practical and I’m going to share 5 messages to communicate down to your employees and 5 messages to communicate up to your boss.
I’m going to go through these things quickly for the sake of time, because I really want to share my super valuable weekly habit that I think all managers should adopt.
Here are 5 messages to communicate down to your employees:
- What You Expect
- What’s Happening in the Organization
- What’s Going Well
- What Needs Improvement
- How You Feel (But Be Wise)
Number 1 – What You Expect
If your people don’t know what your expectations are, and this includes everything from measurable performance to things like attitude and attendance, if your people don’t know your expectations, it’s going to be very difficult for them to meet your expectations.
Number 2 – What’s happening in the organization
No one likes being left on the outside and whether you are part of a major organization or a small business, there are going to be things that happen behind closed doors that you’re employees are going to want to be privy to.
Now, of course there are things you will be privy to that your employees are not and should not be privy to, but it is very important for managers to be able to communicate two things here. First of all, managers need to be able to appropriately filter confidential information to their employees. Meaning, if you had a closed door meeting with your boss and your employees ask you about it, while you probably can’t share everything, you have a responsibility to communicate something to them that doesn’t make them feel like outsiders, but rather allows them to feel like they are part of the team.
The second thing here is that, when it comes to organizational decisions that you as a manager may not feel are important to share with your people, if you can filter those messages as well and give your employees a feeling of being in the know, you can build loyalty with your team but you also avoid your employees telling themselves stories about the company or organization, that just aren’t true.
Number 3 – What’s Going Well
This hits on the idea of celebrating small wins and showing appreciation but it’s bigger than that. When you communicate when things are going well and when you are impressed, you can reinforce positive behaviours and build consistent high performance because your people will be very clear on what it means to do a good job and how that makes you feel and impacts the business.
So that one is huge.
Number 4 – What Needs Improvement
When you see something, say something.
One of the worst things you can do is fail to communicate when the mark is missed or when you are disappointed.
On the one hand, your actions will probably show your disappointment anyway and so failing to be specific can be confusing to your people, but beyond this, if you care about the people on your team, you can’t assume that they are fully aware every time they make a mistake… and even if they are aware, you can’t assume that they know the gravity of their mistakes or poor performance and if you do not address or communicate what needs improvement, then there will be times when unaddressed poor performance comes across as unimportant poor performance that doesn’t really need to be fixed… and you definitely don’t want that.
Number 5 – How You Feel (But Be Wise)
You already know how important it is for people to know who you are and being able to share how you feel is something that can contribute to the relationships you build. When you are sad, happy, scared, and angry, those are emotions that can demonstrate you are human, emotions that show that you care, and emotions allow people to get to know the real you.
But I’ll also caution you to be wise. I’ve heard it said that emotions make a terrible engine but a great caboose. Meaning emotions should follow leadership, not drive leadership. Additionally, if part of your job is to give your people confidence… you want to be wise not to destroy confidence by sharing too much fear.
This can be tricky, and I’m not suggesting you bottle up your emotions, but I’m suggesting that you be wise with where and when you share those emotions… because some of them, should be shared up to your boss rather than down to your employees.
So there are the 5 messages to communicate down to your employees:
- What You Expect
- What’s Happening in the Organization
- What’s Going Well
- What Needs Improvement
- How You Feel (But Be Wise)
5 Messages Every Leader Must Communicate Up To The Boss
Now, I’m going to share 5 messages to communicate up within your organization to your boss. And if you are the ultimate boss here, the business owner, well then these are 5 messages for you to teach your managers to communicate up to you… and I’m sure you’ll agree that this information, if you received it from your managers, would be incredibly valuable and helpful as you lead your organization.
But here’s a quick note before I jump into these 5 messages.
These 5 messages are very closely tied to the 5 pieces of information I describe in my training on ‘Positioning’ which is about being positioned as a manager where you will be most effective so that you can save time and increase productivity.
If that sounds like a good idea… saving time, increasing productivity, I’m running free training this Thursday for 60 minutes through a live webclass.
The other thing that I’ll mention quickly here is that these 5 messages are also the core of the weekly habit I’ll be describing and prescribing afterward… so pay close attention here.
COMMUNICATING UP: 5 messages for managers to communicate up to their boss.
- Last Week’s Performance (Activities & Accomplishments)
- Your Schedule & Weekly Objectives
- Your Goals
- Your Message
- Your Opportunities for Improvement
Number 1 – Last Week’s Performance
Your boss wants to know that you understand how you and your team are performing.
I mean, think about it this way, isn’t it really frustrating when you question if one of your employees actually gets it? Like, do they realize that they aren’t doing well? Or, do they know when they are doing well? Sometimes it feels like a mystery… and that can be really frustrating
But this isn’t just about addressing performance, it’s about communicating your accomplishments and activities and the accomplishments and performance results for your individual team members.
I remember one of my former bosses telling me that he made decisions only based on what he knows. Meaning if he doesn’t know something, it’s kind of hard for him to take information he doesn’t have into consideration when making decisions… makes sense.
But here’s the struggle. If your boss doesn’t see the great things you do… how will he or she know that you do them, unless you communicate?
That the idea here. When there is poor performance, you can get ahead of it by communicating that you are aware of it and addressing it. And when there is high performance, you can share those accomplishments, thus giving your boss more information to help him or her make good business decisions, decisions that could include things like promotional opportunities or budget allocation.
Number 2 – Your Schedule & Weekly Objectives
This is quite simple and it relates the the first point. Communicate what you think your boss should know about what you have going on this week and what you are working on. You’ve just shared how last week went, …so what are you doing with that information? How are you applying the feedback? How are you responding to the poor performance or how are you taking advantage of the high performance?
Number 3 – Your Goals
I am a huge believer that all managers should know the personal and professional goals for each of their employees. If you, as a manager, know what is important to your people, you can help them achieve those things, this also makes sense, right?
Well, your boss may not be very good at this, but you can help your boss lead you better by telling him what you want… and yes, this is right in line with the first 5 messages that I suggested you should be ready to communicate to everyone you interact with.
Tell people what you want so that they can help you get what you want.
But beyond this, when it comes to communicating to your boss, you want to be able to articulate how you are doing when it comes to accomplishing these goals. Where are you succeeding? How close are you? What’s holding you back? Where would you like support?
Teach your boss how to help you.
Number 4 – Your Message
I talk about this in my training on ‘POSITIONING’ that I mentioned a few minutes ago, but when it comes to your team identity, part of being in position is having one clear message that keeps you and your team focused on what’s important.
As a manager, it’s important to have one core message or rally cry that can inspire, re-focus, build identity, and motivate your people. But it’s also important to have this message supported by your own boss.
So communicate what that one thing is. Ask for feedback on it, and ask for help in driving it.
Tell your boss, “hey boss, this is what I’m driving this week (or this month, or this quarter on my team). If we can keep this one thing the main thing, we are going to be successful…. What do you think? How can you help me? What would you suggest I do to keep this front of mind?”
Number 5 – Your Opportunities For Improvement
Self-Awareness is a critical skill for leaders. The ability to analyze your own performance and recognize opportunities for improvement… and the ability to know when to ask for help… these things can be the difference in terms of how well you lead your team and how far you take your people.
So the last message that I think every manager should be able to communicate up to his or her boss is where there are opportunities for personal improvement.
I’ve already referenced this point but I’ll say it again, by doing this, you get ahead of feedback. Meaning that if you’ve made a mistake, it’s better for you to address it then to wait for a performance review or a reactive conversation.
When you address the opportunities for improvement, you are showing that you are aware of the shortfall and that you are doing something about it.
I still remember one of my first bosses telling me that he was always frustrated that when he went to have a performance conversation with one of the managers on his team, that when he sat down with the underperforming manager, the manager always said something like, “yeah, I knew we were going to have this conversation”.
“…well, why did you wait? If you knew there was a problem, what have you been doing about it?”
That’s the point here. Addressing your shortfalls demonstrates a desire to change and improve. But that’s not all it does… it actually helps you to improve. Because if you are going to communicate what you are doing about it… you need to be doing something about it, which means you are thinking about solutions here, which means that you are solving the problem by simply communicating.
And if you are struggling to solve the problem, guess who you are communicating to? Someone who can help you solve it!
So this last one is super important.
Which leads me to my last point of today’s show and the one habit that can have a tremendous impact on your ability to be successful as a leader.
You need to actually communicate these things.
I’ve given you 15 messages to communicate. Messages you should be comfortable and confident communicating to your professional network, your employees, and your boss.
And sure, they sound like really good ideas. But good ideas that are never implemented are useless ideas.
So the question is, what will hold you back from communicating these messages?
Well, if you don’t care about your career enough or your people enough, that would be one thing, but more realistically, maybe you aren’t a very good communicator.
I don’t mean that as a knock on you, but communication skills aren’t valuable because everyone has them, they are valuable because great communicators are rare.
So what’s the difference between great communicators and poor communicators?
It’s not vocabulary or personality type or typing skills or anything like that. Those things help you write books and articles and maybe win some awards if you’re good enough, but when it comes to business communication, what we are talking about today, it’s about figuring out your message and then helping people to understand it.
So I’m not going to recommend that you implement everything I’ve taught you today. That’ would probably be overwhelming.
One Incredible Habit
But I am going to recommend you start with one habit, one thing that you can do every week to practice being an effective communicator.
We talked about general messages, messages for your employees and messages for your boss and I’m going to recommend that you start with increasing your communication with your boss, because the return on that investment is that through the process, you will become a better communicator and leader to your team, but you will also build a relationship with someone who can support you, whether you consider them to be a great boss today or not.
So here’s the habit – Create and Send a Weekly Report to Your Boss
When I started my first corporate job almost 10 years ago as a Recruiter, I was asked to send in a weekly Recruiter report, where I would put together a short little email with an analysis of my last week’s performance and plan for the upcoming week.
When I was promoted to a manager, I did the same thing. A weekly manager report. How did last week go and what do I need for the week ahead?
Now, did my boss read my report every week? Not likely, but I was at that company for 8 years. With vacations and a little bit of inconsistency, let’s say that I sent a report just 40 times in a calendar year. That means I communicated my performance, my goals, my struggles, my desires, my plans, my thoughts, to my boss, 320 times.
You think I learned how to communicate with my boss? You bet I did. I wasn’t great at first, but I practiced.
Those reports led to meaningful conversations. Those reports reduced the frequency of difficult performance conversations with my boss and they increased the the frequency and impact of the positive career conversations I had with my boss.
So I’d like you to start writing a short weekly report to your boss. Now, I probably don’t have to say this, but you should first talk to your boss before you start sending an email each Monday morning, but even if you didn’t, I want you to put yourself in your boss’s shoes for a moment.
Imagine he or she opened up her laptop Monday morning and had an email from you that shared your analysis of last week’s performance, what you’ve got coming up this week, how you are doing on your goals, what message you are driving to your team, and what things you are working on to get better.
You want to transform your leadership, build a strong relationships with your boss and progress your career? There’s one habit that can do all of those things for you.
And if you’re thinking, that sounds like a lot of work to put together each week, or you’re thinking I don’t have time to write a report, or even if you are thinking that your business or team is too unpredictable for something like this to work.
Then it sounds like you need to join me this Thursday for some time management and productivity training training that I’ve put together specifically for managers who are looking for a little more control, a little less stress, and a lot more success as a manager.