As a corporate trainer, I often open my seminars stating; “The single most important skill of a good leader is that of communication”. A manger or executive with an industrial expertise may point to another attribute such as accounting or engineering. However, when it comes to the task of actually LEADING others on the team, one would be hard pressed to disagree with me. Otherwise, just ask anyone who had a great idea and could not bring it to fruition because others did not share in the vision.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of professionals who perhaps due to their technical skills, gained a position of influence and yet do not truly appreciate the need for them to be “visionary”. He or she has the degree, certifications, experience and skill sets to accomplish the tasks at hand. Yet, business professionals many times fail to understand the moment they take on the responsibility of a staff, team, department or even a single intern, they automatically become a LEADER… like it or not. I say that because there are a lot of business people who detest the responsibility of dealing with others and seeing to it staff members contribute their individual portion to the team. The attractiveness of title, prestige and more money clouds the reality that there will be a huge shift in their personal responsibilities. It is no longer the emphasis on individually doing, but instead relating what needs to be done by the team and WHY.
Recently, I was presenting to the executive staff of a large energy company. The organization had recently undergone several growth spurts and weren’t done. They understood the importance of creating a strategic plan relating the direction they were moving to their more than 1000 employees. Out of this, came the need to develop core values, as well as mission and vision statements. The company was undergoing such change they wanted to ensure all the workers were aware of the new direction they were going. Otherwise, employees would not see the need to be flexible in their understanding of what the individual job was. Where thee is confusion in the ranks, you have a loss in productivity, effectiveness and profitability. There could even be safety concerns for any entity that changes course and does not bring its members along.
Followers WANT to be led! The good ones show up to work and fully expect to receive that day’s marching orders or to be informed if the daily routine has been altered. Without a sense of direction, employees lose confidence in the organization, their leaders, even themselves and their abilities. To fill the void, they will many times create their own set of priorities, process policies and deadlines. However, these will all be different from one worker to the next and more than likely not be up to company standards. In time, the company will be swallowed up by inefficiency, lose their customer base, and eventually fold. The frustration an executive may feel is often one of the signs something is wrong and it may present itself too late.
As a business leader, it’s not enough to be proficient in your position, you must also bring the team along for the ride. That means telling members of the team where the ride is going… and why. In short, creating a vision. Key concepts, such as a vision statement is not the only way to do that, but it’s a really good start. It may also require additional training and frequent updates. By opening good lines of communication to allow for questions, ideas and feedback, a leader can be assured that the team understands his or her direction. But if that leader simply assumes everyone knows priorities and what to do without follow through, that professional stands a good chance of not being in the position for long.