Leadership communication

Updated: Nov 21 2005, 05:30am hrs
Leadership communication is of strategic significance for every organisation, unfortunately not all leaders have the inclination or time to effectively communicate their company's core messages, values and vision. Lack of effective communication from the senior management results in a plethora of problems ranging from alienation of employees and proliferation of the grapevine to low morale and loss of individual and organisational productivity. The impact on business can be prolonged and drastic. Any oversight can send the wrong message, leading to wide-scale rumours and fears that may lead to irreversible damage. Long-term leadership communication strategy is a necessity which most organisations need to realise.

Leaders must communicate effectively as this is vital for achieving the organisational vision. "Even a small mistake can result into unimaginable problems; yet the bottomline is that it is one of the most neglected areas by the senior management. Communication is resorted to as and when there is already a fire around or apprehension of it. The importance of proactive communication was probably realised by Jack Welch long time back and that's one of the reasons of his being one of the legendary CEOs," states Ullhas Pagey, an organisation development and HR expert, and a visiting faculty at the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies.

Girish Wardadkar, President and Executive Director, KPIT Cummins, explains the need for a comprehensive and integrated communication strategy that should help to build a 'one team, one goal and zero surprises environment', "What companies expect from their employees is a sense of urgency, results, learning and collaboration. What employees need from their companies is freedom from worry (security), freedom to focus (direction and set goals), freedom to learn (improve competency) and freedom to try new things, take risks and make mistakes-value add to self. These are the mutual responsibilities of employees and companies. Having a comprehensive communication strategy to address these two specific constituencies is critical."

Multi-skilling

Leadership is multi-skilled. It recognises that the completion of a task is dependent on leading and motivating others. It includes the ability to inspire confidence, to explain decisions, to motivate and the ability to communicate objectives clearly and concisely. Prashanth L J, Assistant Vice-president & Head, Marketing, Infinite Computer Solutions asserts that in any organisation, leadership communication is vital as it is critical in motivating employees, building relationships, managing change, improving performance and making workplace conducive for work. "Leadership communication is also critical for aligning employees with organisation vision and creating value. Communication helps creating shared purpose and shared values."

It is a bonding factor that creates transparency and trust. "By communicating effectively leaders send signals that they care and unless the employees are convinced that leaders care, it is unlikely that a solid relationship between the employee and the employer will evolve. Given today's organisational context where employees demand greater clarity and expect high standards of corporate governance, communication becomes very important," points out Prashanth.

But then do leaders have the time or inclination to communicate Pagey believes that they probably have no other choice, "In today's context, it is no longer a matter of choice but a prerequisite. Hence, one has to find time irrespective of its availability and inclination of the person."

When to communicate

It is a known fact that people issues take predominance over other factors for most senior management who are always formulating the ways and means to attract and retain the best talent in a highly competitive business environment. In this scenario how often should senior management communicate with others in the organisation "In my opinion, people in the leadership have to spend at least 30 to 40 percent of their time on people and people related issues, of which at least half of the time should be on communicating with people. It is extremely important to align people with business results in order to balance between a company's business capabilities and people requirements. Especially, in the IT industry, managing customer expectations through employee relationship, employee expectations and through people practices is critical," answers Wardadkar.

It is necessary for all organisations to have a detailed communication plan and calendar as per the communication strategy. Wardadkar lists the communication plan of KPIT Cummins:

Monthly employee communication via e-mail called Plainspeak where the President and Executive Director (Wardadkar) communicates key highlights of the past month and articulate goals for the next month or quarter as the case may be

Weekly huddle with the direct reports to focus on the ensuing and the past week's highlights

Monthly meetings with Delivery Managers (skip level, second line of Wardadkar's direct reports). This meeting focusses on direct communication on the company's priorities, strategies, plans, achievements, challenges, etc.

Quarterly 'Face to Face' meeting with Project Managers (fourth in line).

(e) Round table Skip meetings, one-on-one and other face-to-face forums, including 'all hands', etc, again to communicate where they are, how they are doing, etc.

Besides e-mail and such face-to-face meetings, the senior leadership also communicates through the second line by a similar process. Senior leaders should communicate with their employees as often as possible. According to Prashanth this communication can happen at various levels and can be top-down in approach.

In arrangement with Express Computer