Last month I used this space to emphasize the importance of integrity and effective communication in leadership. It is difficult to overstate the importance of these two; so today we will take a closer look.
We live in a jaded society. Bumper stickers, talk shows, reality TV, and grocery store tabloids bear daily witness to this. The moment Tim Tiebow landed in NYC the media began its due diligence efforts to expose him as a phony. No one seems to trust anyone.
Why? Because we have been deceived so often by people—personal and public—who have carefully projected an image of integrity, all the while manipulating every available item in their world that might give them an edge at whomever’s expense.
I have my stories and you have yours. What we have in common is that we are sick of it. Angry. So are our people.
Oh yes, integrity is a somewhat archaic term—a leftover from the Boy and Girl Scout days—but it is more highly valued now than ever.
If your people feel they can trust you they are likely to be far more trustworthy themselves. But what if you have crossed a few integrity boundaries over the years? What can you do to recover? Can you recover?
You can if you are honest about it. American people are not only forgiving people; they almost look for opportunities to forgive people who are truly penitent.
In one of my consulting ventures a fellow named Jim was ready to leave a company that desperately needed his sales. On the surface, Jim seemed selfish—bailing at a time of great company need. It looked that way to me, until Jim took me aside and told me about Rich.
Jim was a key player in a family-owned company. Pete, the founding father, wanted to cut him in on stock shares. Unbeknownst to Rich, the eldest son and new president, Jim found out that Rich had vetoed Pete’s stock proposal. When the crunch came and Rich tried to appeal to Jim’s loyalty, there was none to which to appeal.
Rich never heard the bullet coming back to him, but often we are well aware of less than honorable actions in which we may have engaged. Often these unsavory actions involve key people. If we confront these fully, life can become very different. From that point on, it will get a little tougher, as people will be looking more closely at how you conduct yourself. But if you are truly committed to integrity, that will only be a reward.
After you get past the importance of honesty in communication, you come to the next element: clarity. There is a very simple yet profound reason why clear, effective communication is at a greater premium now than at any other time in history. It is because there is so much communication, so much daily white noise in everyone’s world.
There is geometrically more “noise” now than even a decade ago. It used to be primarily television, radio, and print communication that assaulted us. Those are just footnotes now. All of us have cell phones, email, mail, and social media competing for our attention. We owners can now skip that conference and opt for the webinar instead.
People have more access to one another than ever before, but that access is superficial and distracting. In that buzzing context, information is often not heard, heard partially, or heard inaccurately. Even if it is heard, it is not remembered.
You are at the top: in the Executive Suite. You must communicate. In fact, you are about as effective as your ability to communicate your thoughts and directives to your people. And you now know you have lots of competition for their ears and minds.
It begins with a simple question: what do you want your people to know on a daily, weekly, and even annual basis? Determine that and invest your energies in making those thoughts as clear and compelling as possible.
From there, train your immediate associates to be human megaphones—people who amplify your message to those who report to them. Now combine these two—integrity and effective communication. Other than good business sense, there aren’t many other more important ingredients to successful occupancy of the Executive Suite.