Why Most Managers Don’t Know What They’re Talking About

By Heather Campbell

Why most managers don’t know what they’re talking aboutBy Heather Campbell >>

Effective communication is key to business & leadership success

For business leaders, the ability to communicate effectively is vital. Get it wrong and you lose your ability to lead, motivate and engage.

And organisations are little more than the sum of the conversations that take place every day – boardroom conversations, sales conversations, conversations in team meetings, even water-cooler conversations. To become and remain successful, organisations need to adopt best practices in managing the conversations that drive their business.

Yet most companies pay lip-service to developing this vital leadership skill-set. And this is despite employee surveys regularly showing that people rate their bosses’ communication skills as poor. As a result, organisations around the world are losing millions through failed projects, and are actively creating disinterested, poorly motivated workforces.

Transform performance by improving management communication

Many organisations that have invested in some form of communication skills programme – often a generic programme from a generalist agency – have been disappointed by the results. The typical one or two-day (or in some cases just half-day) workshop allows leaders to gain new understanding about communication but, crucially, not the ability to change behaviours long-term or implement good practice when the pressures of everyday work life bite.

Despite good intentions, old behaviour patterns are repeated almost as soon as the manager gets back behind their desk. You can’t expect a transformation in communication approaches after a short period of learning – but you can transform business performance by improving management communication. It takes a little time and effort, but it’s always worth it.

Effective management communication means building self-awareness

Communication is one of the most complex areas for development. It means changing deeply embedded habits. After all, most people haven’t dedicated any real time and effort to learning how to communicate since they were a toddler!

Real progress in management communication comes from gaining a deeper level of self-awareness in order to understand what is getting in the way of achieving change. Changing long-term habits and building the self-awareness that underpins those habits – and enables us to adopt new, more effective ones – takes time and support.

This philosophy is core to our approach at CommsMasters and we feel passionately that management communication is the most underdeveloped skill set for senior managers and we are working every day to change that.

Leadership communication has never been more important

The importance of leadership communication has never been greater. With the unprecedented economic conditions, one of the few untapped resources businesses can release lies within their employees’ willingness to give that bit extra. The best way to tap into that unrealised energy is through changing the way leaders communicate.

What do you think? What is your experience of leadership communication in your organisation? Feel free to use the comments to share your thoughts or ask us any questions you may have…


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  1. I cannot agree more with Heather’s blog. In my opinion if an organisation wants to change how they do things – improve customer service, increase sales or make more effective use of their budget, then they need to change how people communicate. My experience both as a manager in Financial Services and a independent consultant, is that companies instead of investing in some specially designed training, design a new process and lovely forms only make matters worse as managers hide behind them.

    Let’s be honest we all probably think we are better communicators than we think – as I read recently, no one ever says ‘I wish that person would stop listening to me so much’ and ‘Bad listening is like bad breath, lot’s of people notice, but very few people tell you about it’. Raising self-awareness through feedback and coaching is key and yet the paradox is that senior managers receive less feedback the higher they climb and often assume that their success is down to their excellent communication skills!

    1. I work in an engineering environment where people are often promoted on the basis of technical expertise. It is frequently the case that technically-biased organisations under-value the importance of inter-personal communications and fail to develop this vital leadership skill-set. I some across many Senior Managers, who seem to have no motivational or inspirational qualities. How would one go about trying to change such cultures which are so technically biased?

  2. Heather’s comments above support the insightful research at The Work Foundation that investigated the difference between ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ leaders. One of the findings reported by Penny Tamkin was that ‘ outstanding leaders understand that talk is work ’ They specifically identified that establishing mutual dialogue is the precursor to taking effective action.

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