Can a Leader Over Communicate?

A few weeks back the local newspaper in Minneapolis published a story on the best companies to work for in Minnesota. There were big companies, medium size and very small companies listed. 

 

They were from a variety of industries with many of the companies having a very diverse workforce, even the smaller ones. Some had leaders who had been at the helm a long time while others had newer leadership. There were many differences in the various organizations. 

 

But there was one thing that all, that’s all, as in every, organization seemed to have in common. When employees of organizations on the list were interviewed they all spoke of the importance of communication. 

 

A good work environment is dependent upon many factors. None are more important than open, consistent, and honest communication. 

 

“Work” is a vital part of most people’s lives. They spend, or hopefully, invest, a large percentage of their waking hours there. People have this space within them that holds the information they deem vital for their lives. Since work is vital they must have as much information as possible about where they work. They need to know how the organization is doing, if it’s stable, if it’s growing and what the future holds. If that information isn’t supplied for them then they fill the gap themselves, often with rumor.

 

Information is the enemy of rumor. If you don’t like rumors running around your organization then the fastest way to smother them is with accurate information.

 

I’ve known many people in leadership positions who believed and still believe that information is power. They believe that knowing something that their people don’t makes them more important. Some believe it makes them smarter and more indispensable. Others believe that “secrets” must be kept because it’s “best” to keep employees guessing. I knew a senior leader years ago who literally told me a key part of his job was to keep his people guessing about what he wanted from them. That’s crazy!

 

There is little information that must be kept secret. Yes, there are some legalities involved, especially for publicly held companies. But overall there is a lot more information withheld from an organization’s people than needs to be. 

 

Leaders should never withhold information from their people only for the sake of withholding it. Most leaders are very good about not being careless with information that must be protected. Most leaders are also very very careless about sharing information that their people need to know. They mindlessly forget how important the organization is to their people. Sometimes they simply lack the empathy needed to understand the importance of communication.

 

There have never been more avenues of communication available for leaders of organizations than there are today. Depending on the size of your organization you can email a brief weekly newsletter to your team or post a weekly blog on your company intranet. You can develop your own social media site for your organization. You can create a podcast for senior leaders to update people on what’s happening with the business. 

 

The key is consistent, regular and frequent, very frequent, communication. The younger your employees the more they crave that communication. Once a year or even once a quarter does not get it done anymore. 

 

There is no excuse for not communicating with your people. Unless of course you’re simply too busy. If that’s the case and you’re too busy to connect with your people then you need to realize that your also too busy to lead.


The answer to the question that makes up the title of this post NO, a leader cannot, absolutely cannot, over communicate.

Do You Have the Trust of Your People?

Emerson said, “Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single person. An individual’s character determines the character of the organization.” Is your’s the shadow that Emerson was talking about? 

 

If you’re in any leadership position you should know that you cast a large shadow on those who follow you. Your shadow can either shade them from difficulties or make their work environment a very dark place. 

 

It all depends on the level of trust YOU create with your people.

 

Only 45% of 400 managers in a Carnegie-Mellon survey trusted their top management. A third distrusted their immediate bosses. I truly hope your people trust you but you can’t lead by merely hoping you’re trusted. You must work intentionally, every day, to earn the trust and respect of the people you lead.

 

That trust can only come from a consistent display of integrity. Your integrity comes from your actions, not your image and not the statements you make. Your people will do what they see you doing far faster than they will do what you ask them to do.

 

When what you say doesn’t match what you do then you can be certain they will do what you did and not what you said to do.

 

When thinking about the quality of your own integrity consider these questions.

  • Are you the same person no matter who you are with?  
  • Do you make decisions that are best for others when another choice would benefit you?  
  • Do recognize others for their efforts and contributions to your success? (In writing?) 

Image is what people think you are, integrity is what you really are.  Asking yourself these three questions can help keep you on track and ensure that your image matches your level of integrity. 

 

Here is one reason integrity is so important for a leader: Integrity has huge influence value. If you have the ability to influence others then your ability to lead is unlimited. Integrity helps a leader be credible, not just clever.

 

Integrity is a hard-won achievement; it takes a long time to establish it with your team and you never fully complete the task. You must work on your integrity every day because while it’s a long process to earn it, you can lose it overnight.

 

It’s also a good idea to seek input from others about your integrity. You won’t always see yourself the same way that others may see you. So ask someone who knows you well, in what areas of your life they see you as consistent. (you do what you say) In what areas they see as inconsistent (you say but don’t always live.) 


If you don’t like their answers remember, you can change. You can become the leader you want to be, but also remember, you will only become what you are becoming right now.

 

 

 


Do You Know What’s Really Going On?

Not everyone in a leadership position is actually in touch with the “realities” of their organization. They think they know what’s going on but as Mark Twain said it’s not what they don’t know that gets them in trouble, it’s what they know that just ain’t so. 

 

There are a lot of reasons that happens but regardless of the reasons, if the situation continues for too long a time those leaders end up with an actively disengaged team. Yep, actively disengaged, not only do they look for ways to unplug, they try, even subconsciously, to help those around them disengage too. 

 

So, how about you, do you really know what’s going on in your organization?      

 

Can you list at least five challenges your front-line employees currently face, and what’s being done to resolve them? If you can’t it might be a sign that you’re not in touch with the people in your organization who really know what’s going on. The good news is that an easy fix exists for that situation… get out from behind your desk and go and talk to them. Skip the org charts, bypass their boss and their bosses’ boss, go directly to the source. Ask them!

 

Can you think of three recent examples of someone below you in the organization disagreeing with you? If not then they may not have the courage to speak up. That could be because of you or it could be because of them. Either way you need to find a way to encourage them to speak up. If you can’t then you may never know what is really going on in your organization. 

 

If you were asked could you share several examples of how your thinking has changed due to employee feedback. No can do? Then it’s likely there’s a gap between what you say about the importance of employee feedback and what you actually do to encourage it. If you’re not receiving feedback from a very wide variety of people in your organization then it’s very likely that you don’t really know what’s happening in your organization. 

 

Every leader has an occasional lapse in awareness. You can minimize yours by frequently using these checkpoints to keep yourself plugged into reality. You will never know what’s really going on in your organization if you’re only communicating with your other top leaders. They may be just as unaware as you. 


If your team knows you “get it” your credibility goes way up and your ability to lead and their willingness to follow goes way up with it.

Your Leadership Journey

I am always a little surprised when someone refers to me as an “authority” or “expert” on leadership. While I certainly appreciate the respect they are showing me by describing me with those words I know otherwise. 

 

I know some stuff about leadership but I also know that I know a tiny percentage of what it’s possible to know. I know too that neither I nor anyone else can ever come close to knowing more than that small percentage. 

 

Since leadership is about people and only people it’s impossible to truly be an “expert on leadership.” People will always surprise you. You can predict with some accuracy what people will do based on their past performance but never with enough accuracy to be a true expert. 

 

People are unique, they are actually even unique from themselves depending on the circumstances in their life at any given time. 

 

That’s what makes leadership so fascinating. It is what makes leadership so rewarding and it’s what makes leading so challenging. 

 

When someone else tells me that they are a leadership expert I am more than skeptical. I have only heard a couple of people describe themselves as an Authentic Leader. The moment the words came out of their mouth I was pretty certain they were anything but authentic. 

 

It’s kinda like when someone offers a class on humility taught by an “expert” on the subject. As soon as someone accepts the description of themselves as an expert on humility they are no longer humble enough to speak about it. So it is with leadership!

 

Authentic Leaders know that their journey to leadership excellence will never end. Authentic Servant Leaders know that helping the people they lead must always be the purpose of that journey. 

 

If you’re not constantly working on your knowledge of leadership then you run the risk of falling behind other leaders. If you’re not always developing your leadership skills then you run the risk of losing the people you would lead. 


Learning about all things leadership never stops for the best leaders. If you didn’t learn something new about leading others yesterday then you had best double your efforts today because if you’re not learning then you’re not leading.

The Biggest Mistake in Leadership

When it comes to businesses and the people who keep them running the rules are changing faster than ever before. This hyperactive environment presents unprecedented and unpredictable challenges to leaders everywhere, every day. 

 

Because everything else is changing it must be time to change how we lead. Right?

 

Well, maybe not. Actually not at all.

 

Leaders have behaved very much the same across the centuries. We know they come in different sizes, shapes, colors, and personalities. Yet by and large leaders do things, and get results, in similar ways. They always have and there is not a shred of evidence that’s going to change anytime soon.

 

Leaders don’t lead businesses, they don’t lead organizations and they don’t lead things. Leaders lead people and only people. Because people haven’t changed much since… well since there have been people on the earth, leadership hasn’t changed much either. 

 

Some would say that maybe people didn’t change before but with Millennials taking over the world everything is changing, even people. While there are some differences between the generations there are far more similarities. 

 

Leaders of today need to understand those differences. They also need to understand that despite huge changes in work environments, even bigger changes in the use of technology and the fact that for the first time ever we have 4 generations in the workforce, people have always had the same basic wants and needs.

 

People don’t want to be managed they need to be led.

 

Leadership means creating a vision. Leaders are the first to articulate an organization’s vision, and tell how they expect to make it a reality. The vision includes a benefit to all stakeholders. People will not follow a leader unless they know where the leader is going. They are also much more likely to follow a leader when there is something in it for them personally. As a leader you need to turn around once in a while to see if anyone is following. If no one is behind you then you may have a leadership title but you aren’t truly leading. Authentic Leaders bring their vision to life through inspiring initiatives and contagious commitment.  

 

Leadership means communicating Core Values. Leaders communicate values at the heart of an organization. They share the principles that both hold an organization together and drive it forward. Not only do Authentic Leaders communicate those values, they live them. When a leader’s words do not match their actions they will find their leadership walk to be a lonely one.

 

Leaders engage and encourage people. Authentic Leaders understand that their people are their greatest resource. They know that their success, and the success of their organization, is completely dependent upon the success of those people. Authentic Leaders invest a huge amount of time and energy in their people. Many people think of a CEO as a Chief Executive Officer. If that CEO is also an Authentic Leader then they are also the Chief Encouragement Officer. 

 

The biggest mistake a leader can make today is believing that the requirements for leadership success have changed. Leadership is about people and only people. Don’t jump at leadership “fads” and the people promoting “Millennial Leadership.” If you want to lead someone from any generation you’ll need to understand that no matter their age, they are people too. 


That also is unlikely to change any time soon. 

Is Your Leadership Creating Negativity?

Perhaps the better question would be is your lack of leadership creating negativity? Or is there a characteristic missing from your leadership that causes negativity in your organization? 

 

I like that last question best because you can be an effective leader in some ways but if you’re missing the key ingredients of sincere recognition and consistent feedback then you’re missing the point of leadership. 

 

The point of leadership is people. Authentic Leaders, and Authentic Servant Leaders in particular, focus on helping their people. They help them succeed. They help them discover their purpose and potential and then they help them achieve them. 

 

Those leaders understand the importance of recognition and feedback. They seldom miss an opportunity to provide both. 

 

As a leader I’ve always been consistent in providing feedback but I’ve struggled with giving recognition. I’m not a touchy feely kind of guy. Early in my career I assumed a paycheck was all the recognition someone needed. 

 

As I’ve grown (that’s code for gotten older) I’ve come to realize that recognition is vital for a person’s mental health. It’s vital for a person to know, without a doubt that another human being sees the value that they bring into the world. 

 

We all need to know we matter. Some people need that affirmation more than others but everyone needs it to some degree. As a leader one of your prime responsibilities is providing that affirmation. Your people need to hear it. They need to feel it. They need to see it. 

 

Here is a crucial thing for leaders to understand. Most people, research shows that as much as 85% of the world’s population, suffer from some level of self esteem deficiency. They lack the confidence to know that they matter, that they make a difference, that they would be missed. 

 

They need rather consistent re-enforcement of that fact. 

 

If they don’t get it, if it’s not a periodic part of their emotional diet, then they start to doubt their value. Maybe it’s a nagging thought or little concern at first but over time without recognition it grows. It grows to the point where they become convinced that they are NOT of value. 

 

That doesn’t make them wacky or weak; it makes them human. It happens to all of us at one time or another. 

 

When that “unvalued” feeling persists long enough a person disengages from the leader or organization that doesn’t value them. Some will then leave the organization and the leader behind. They use what confidence they have left to put themselves into a situation where they might be valued. 

 

But many won’t leave, they stay and simply go through the motions with their organization. They become disengaged and offer little in return for their paycheck. They can even seek to pull others down to their level. They are labeled as “negative” employees or described as having a negative attitude. 

 

They may be negative but they were not born that way. They likely didn’t have that attitude the day they started with the organization. That attitude developed over time and it likely started with a feeling that they, and their work, didn’t matter. 

 

That’s how easy it is for a well-meaning but sometimes thoughtless leader to foster an atmosphere of negativity in their organization. 

 

No organization, not a single one, can afford that type of atmosphere today. As a leader you must be intentional with your feedback and recognition. I literally recommend to leaders that they put a reminder in their phones to recognize someone each day. 


“Busy” is no excuse for letting your people wonder if they matter. Tell them often because there are few, if any, activities you have to do that could be more important than that.

Why You’ll Never Lead a Thing

If you’re reading this then I have news for you…. you will never lead a thing. Never!

 

Leadership requires an emotional connection between a leader and a follower. “Things” have no emotions and therefore they cannot be led. Only people can be led. In fact they must be led because as emotional beings we humans refuse to be managed. We fight back against being managed even if only subconsciously.

 

If you struggle with constant “problems” with your people it’s very likely that you are trying to manage them instead of leading them.

 

Many people in leadership positions say that the difference between leading and managing is mere semantics. They believe that they are one in the same. Authentic Leaders know better.

 

Authentic Leaders know that there is a huge difference between the mindset of a leader and the mindset of a manager. A manager’s mindset is about control. It is about being reactive. It is about maintaining the status quo, and it’s about policies and procedures. 

 

An Authentic Leader’s mindset is about vision and strategy. It is about influence and inspiration. It is about appealing to the heart and raising expectations. A leadership mindset is proactive and it is people focused. 

 

Now before you go and get all cranky on me I am not saying managing isn’t important. It is every bit as vital as leading. Asking which is more important is like asking if having air or the ability to breath is more important. It doesn’t matter because without one you don’t need the other. 

 

When you understand that there are real differences between leading and managing then you have the opportunity to actually lead. Leading requires a deep understanding of people and if you don’t understand people you’ll find it impossible to lead them. 


Adopt one of Dale Carnegie’s principles from How to Win Friends and Influence People…the one that’s says to be genuinely interested in other people. The key words there is genuinely; when you are truly interested in learning about people they will show you exactly how to lead.