The Leader Sets the Tone for Effective Communication

I recently had the opportunity to observe two different group interactions at two different companies and the contrasts were striking.

At one, the entire group–a newly formed group–was engaged, enthusiastic and positive; they interacted openly with their team leader who was inclusive and affirming of their input. In the other, a group that has recently undergone some leadership changes, but has been in place for some time, interactions seemed cautious if they occurred at all. The CEO, a commanding presence, held the floor most of the time while participants listened (or pretended to listen), but seemed sullen, disengaged and looked frequently at the clock or their smartphones.

These experiences reminded me how critical the formal leader of any team is to the effective functioning of that team and how their words and actions impact individual, team and–ultimately–organizational success.

Effective leaders:

  • Are collaborative and inclusive–they don’t assume they have all the answers (or that their team members expect them to have all the answers)
  • Are supportive–they effectively guide the team toward sound decisions and actions with more affirming than criticizing comments
  • Handle conflicts openly, but non-defensively. Conflicts will occur; but effectively handled they will set the stage for future healthy communications
  • Share credit; accept blame–they create a strong sense of team and convey that they “have the backs” of their individual team members.

Effective leaders generate loyalty, commitment, support and–most importantly–strong performance from their team members. Not-so-effective leaders generate not only the opposite but, often, drive the most effective members of their team to other departments or other organizations. The strong performers will leave and the team will be more and more comprised of not-so-strong performers whose performance is hampered even more by weak leadership.

Which type of teams do you want to nurture at your organization? If it’s the former, make sure you’re taking steps to assess the actions of your leaders at every level of the organization. One bad apple (aka leader) can indeed spoil the whole bunch.

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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