Writing about leadership is an enjoyable experience for me. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and lessons learned and hopefully others will find this useful. Great leaders inspire, and bad leaders inspire (other to move on), so it is important to help others aspire to be great. But writing about leadership and employing good leadership practices are 2 different things altogether.
The same goes for leading in “real life”. It is easy to hide behind a desk and make the call to let someone go, tell another that they must work the weekend, or deliver other less-than pleasant news. It is easy to get caught up in the email style of “send it and forget it” mentality and “leave it in their hands”. I once worked for someone who said he never wanted to hear phrases like “I emailed them and am waiting to her back”. Was this wrong? What happened to the face-to-face conversation?
Leadership can be accomplished in many ways – good and bad – and should be situationally based (perhaps a little research on situational leadership by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard is in order). Leading people requires constant communication. According to the Project Management Institute, the Project Manager (the leader) spends 90% of their time performing communication related activities (phone calls, meetings, emails, etc.) and 50% of their time communicating with their team. So was it wrong to wait to hear back? In the words of many (perhaps all?) lawyers, it depends.
How a leader communicates to anyone depends on the situation – the individuals’ preference, the circumstance, organizational policies – everything comes into play and must be considered. In some cases, emailing and waiting is the proper choice and in other situations it would be more appropriate to meet face-to-face immediately. The leader must evaluate the situation and communicate in a way that reduces noise (literal and metaphorical) and increases the chance of a properly delivered AND received message.
So how can this be accomplished? It depends (I love that statement!). Realistically, learning the preferred communication methods of your team takes time, practice, patience, and awareness. Have you ever sent an email to someone and received a phone call back? Chances are good this person prefers a phone call over email. Have you ever sent a text and never receive a response? This person either ignores text messages or has a bad service provider. You may have stumbled across one of the ways he or she does NOT want to communicate.
Now, this process can be sped up. Try asking your team, especially if you are new, how they would like to communicate. Applying the “it’s my way or the highway” method will result in frustration, irritation, resentment, and some negative reviews (for both involved). Ask your team how they want to communicate and see what works. This will earn you a bit of respect since are showing your team you care, and giving them respect by earnestly asking for their opinion.
It is easy to ask others how they communicate best. It is another to put it into practice. Step out from behind your desk, phone, shut door – or your blog – and communicate with your team the way the need you to.
Jared W. Snow