David Caulfield

What do leaders do? Communicate.

Communicate by Default

A manager's default task is to communicate. If the manager finds themselves prevented from communicating to their stakeholders by more "productive" tasks, they risk failure in their role. All managers face this challenge at some point or another and fall into the "I'm too busy leading to lead" trap. Managers should communicate all day, everyday. They should overcommunicate by sending the same information through multiple channels - email, meetings, presentations, group chats.

For example, if a manager wants to advertise each team's project status, they could:

  • Send an email detailing each team's project status.
  • Setup a meeting and ask a delegate from each team to give an update.
  • Attach a meeting agenda to the call to communicate what they need to prepare.
  • Send a follow-up email after the call showing the summary and highlighting any actions.

Look at how much communication has occurred for an effective cross-team meeting. There can be no doubt for anyone included what the status of things are.

Here's how not to do it (taken from a real-world scenario):

  • Invite every team member from each team into a call.
  • Ask a delegate from each team to give their update one-by-one.
  • Finish the call.

In this example, the manager could say that everyone now understands what's going on. But in reality, most people who joined the call knew they didn't need to be there and zoned out. The critical actions and cross-dependencies between teams were not captured and followed up afterwards. The manager is relying on everyone to:

  • Be present and attentive when someone else is talking.
  • Recognise critical information.
  • Recognise hidden information

Communicating in L&D

For "horizontal" responsibilities that cut across the whole company, communication is even more important as so many people rely on hearing from you. In Learning and Development for example, employees want to hear about new initiatives and opportunities that come up that they could participate in. Even if an employee never joins any L&D initiative, seeing other people participating acts as a reminder to them to keep improving themselves. An L&D practitioner can communicate to the company in multiple ways:

  • Display the L&D dashboard at the all staff update.
  • Send out a monthly L&D newsletter summarising the latest initiatives.
  • Communicate to managers and major stakeholders that engage with the company.

These methods of communication are for the general employee. Each initiative must also be communicated individually. Few things frustrate people than feeling like there is a secret project they don't know anything about, especially in smaller companies.

With all this in mind, it therefore makes sense that a large portion of time is spent preparing to communicate. Effective emails and clear visual dashboards help people see the trees from the forest. So spending the time, whether it's 15 minutes before a call or 1 hour to prepare a company slide, is extremely worthwhile.

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