Leaders communicate

Leaders communicate

The good Leader tells those who need to know what is happening. S/he doesn’t ‘spin’ the truth. S/he doesn’t alter the facts to suit his or her purpose. S/he knows that s/he will have to motivate, encourage and drive the team but s/he won’t do it with lies. Nor will s/he use the time available for communication to build his or her own position. Self-congratulation is not part of a leader’s kit.

Having said which, I am immediately going to congratulate myself – please note that it is post the event, not during it. I was deeply flattered a while ago by being told by a former senior colleague of mine that he had worked out what our management style really was. He called it The Three EEEs. Encouraging, Empowering, Enduring. It is a wonderful summary of what I tried to do in all the businesses I worked in but especially in Cerebos Pacific Ltd – the business I built in Asia.

Encouraging is obvious – until you come to apply it. Those who manage others usually have to correct them quite often. That means telling them that they have done something wrong – or the wrong way. It is difficult to avoid the inference and tone of “stupid” when doing so. When a boss says or is even thought to infer that, it may be magnified in the mind of the person receiving the message to the point where they think they are completely stupid.

There is a simple way out of this dilemma but it demands some discipline to make it work. If you try never to judge people but only to judge what they do, you avoid inferring that they are stupid, bad or useless. “A silly mistake” is very different from “How stupid you are”. In writing appraisals of their subordinates, I insisted that managers who worked for me made all their points as to what the person had done, was doing or was likely to continue doing. Never as to what the person was.

Better still, turn the mistake into the basis of a new approach to the problem and you will have your correction – positively. My strange game of holding a 10am meeting in the board room of those who had made a mistake and those who had been affected by it and those who could learn from it, was made even more bizarre by opening a bottle of champagne and toasting, with a thimbleful each, whoever had made the mistake – because they were about to teach us how to avoid it.   

‘Your mistake is my mistake’ is the right approach for a good leader.

Empowering lets people experiment, and make mistakes. Creativity doesn’t only require brains, it requires courage. ‘The ability to perceive relationships’ only works when you ignite them. Some will be damp squibs, some will fire off but then fall back to earth. Some will go to the sky. Every one that becomes a star demands several damp squibs and failures. The logic of empowerment is that people do best what they enjoy doing. You don’t always have the luxury of letting people do that but the more you can, the more productive your team will be.

Enduring is the most controversial of The Three EEEs. Business and employment are largely transactional, but they shouldn’t be exclusively so. Work is as much part of life as home. In today’s internet connected world we mostly work in time zones other than our own, at least occasionally. So working from home is not just a virus necessity, it’s a life necessity. People who know you are interested in and concerned about their whole life, not in an intrusive but in a caring way, always respond with greater commitment.

It doesn’t require a great effort to stay in touch. When you do so those you keep up with are themselves touched. Because they know that you care. As their boss you were certainly at times their mentor. And the first and most important rule of mentoring is to care.

The good boss cares – and shows it.