August 11; What Is the First Function of The Executive? MANAGEMENT BY THE BOOK: 365 Daily Bible Verse & One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful
Chapter Eight: Communication; 11 August
The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
|What Is the First Function of The Executive?|
My mission in combat arms was simple, “Move, Shoot and Communicate.” Who knew war-fighting was so much like corporate America?
The military is perhaps the world’s best training platform to learn and study the practice of management. Your Business Professor learned the value of the ‘net’ while in the Army years before the Internet and our current world wide web of connectivity. Every small Army unit was connected by a secure radio ‘net’ to maintain contact with superiors and subordinates.
It mattered not how competent a team was in mobility or marksmanship if the group was not connected and communicated with sister units and the boss. The unit could not be considered to be combat effective unless it was on-line.
Once radio contact was made by gaining permission to join the net, with authentication, the work of the senior commander could continue. He had many parts to play and communication was at the center of the web.
“There are three roles that all managers perform,” writes Thomas Bateman at the University of Virginia,
Interpersonal, as leader, liaison, figurehead;
Informational, as monitor, disseminator, spokesman; and
Decisional, as entrepreneur, disturbance handler, negotiator. (Thomas S. Bateman 2013)
Each of these demands the ability to send and receive data both in person and electronically.
And this is non-stop, even if redundant. Samuel Johnson said, “People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.”
Presidential speechwriter James C. Humes emphasizes that,
Leadership is selling. And selling is talking. The ability of a chief executive to talk for and promote his company is a chief factor in determining the worth of that company in the marketplace.
Harold Burson, founder and head of one of the nation’s biggest public relations agencies, Burson & Marsteller, commissioned a survey that found that 86 percent of analysts said they “would buy stock based on the CEO’s reputation.” Humes, James C. (2009-02-19). Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers (Kindle Locations 26-29). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Professor Henry Mintzberg of McGill University says,
Watch any manager and one thing readily becomes apparent: the amount of time that is spent simply communicating—namely, collecting and disseminating information for its own sake, without necessarily processing it.
Barnard, himself a chief executive (of New Jersey Telephone), identified the “first executive function” as “to develop and maintain a system of communication” (1938:226). (Mintzberg 2009)
Mintzberg quips, “As Jeanne Liedtka of the Darden School has put it (in a talk I attended): “Talk is the technology of leadership.” (Mintzberg 2009)
Talk and technology were about to explode in the 1920s. Herbert Hoover was the first president to have a telephone on his desk. Earlier presidents would have one secretary. He had five. There was a lot more communicating to do. (Manchester 1973) And even that was not enough. Hoover still got the blame for the Great Depression beginning in 1929.
The manager spends his day in communication, so that means s/he’s got to be a real talker? Right?
Maybe so. Mintzberg “and others have found that managing to be between 60 and 90 percent oral.” (Mintzberg 2009)
The manager will have to do better that Wendell L. Willkie. He did not pace himself and lost his voice during the presidential campaign in 1940. This made his run even more difficult against the practiced FDR. (Manchester 1973)
President Ronald Reagan is known as the Great Communicator, who spent decades practicing the craft of delivering the lines of a speech. He knew how to present the aura of optimism; that the future would be better. That, under his leadership, we would have a new morning in America.
And we did. Because he said so.
The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. Isaiah 50:4
What separates dreamers from entrepreneurs is the fact of having a great idea and transforming it into a successful business venture. Not everyone can become an entrepreneur, it takes creativity and hard work to be be successful executing ideas. There are several aspects that every good leader and entrepreneur should possess. The first aspect is honesty, as your business and employees are a reflection of yourself. If you have an honest and ethical behavior your team will follow. Secondly, one should Learn to delegate by identifying the strengths of your team, and capitalizing on them. It is important to find out what each team member enjoys doing most. In my past experience, I have encountered a lot of managers that do not delegate the work and they are always behind schedule with tasks. Finally, having the ability to communicate effectively is very helpful to achieve goals and relate your vision and your purpose to your team. A leader should be confident on your decisions as a work team depends on certainty. If you expect your team to work hard and produce quality content, you’re going to need to lead by example. Don’t forget to keep a good and positive attitude. And last but not least be creative and have fun sometimes because decisions will not always be so clear-cut. You may be forced at times to deviate from your set course and make an on the fly decision.
The term “leader” is frequently thrown around in the corporate world. It is used so heavily that it has become an abstraction, something that encompasses so much that it seems almost impossible to define. It can describe an ideological, military or political leader or someone that helps their group or team achieve goals that promote the common good. In my opinion, it is important to adapt your own leadership skills according to the work’s environment.
The idea of radio communication in this blog post struck me. Working in professional sports operations, my radio was always on my hip – ready to be answered at all times during an event day. The sports industry is probably not thought of as having similar communications as military battalions, but it is necessary. With one large event day bringing all departments and employees to a cavernous stadium, there has to be one way to communicate with everyone. From sponsorship, sales, team administration, guest services, security, and operations – everything hinges on good radio communication.
The blog post quotes Henry Mintzberg, “Watch any manager and one thing readily becomes apparent: the amount of time that is spent simply communicating—namely, collecting and disseminating information for its own sake, without necessarily processing it.” This is precisely what I was in charge of during game days. I was a glorified rolodex of information on what was going on, when, and where it was happening for each and every game, as well as the point person for the information. My collecting and disseminating information to my coworkers let them focus on their own jobs during the game – like making sure sponsors are happy! In that way, I was the manager of each game day, fielding questions from every department, and shooting back the information needed. My collection of information was also helpful when something went astray, I was the perfect person to help problem solve a solution, since I had all of the event information in my head, I knew what options were available, and I knew which weren’t.
The radios that connected us on game days were just the device – the real connection was the communication between departments.
Effective leaders need to master the six basic functions of management: leading, planning, organizing, staffing, controlling, and communicating. But what’s the one golden thread tying all of those functions together – and the most important key to great leadership? Clear communication. Leaders need to be able to communicate well. In order to be effective, a leader needs to focus on three elements: mission, people, and teamwork. Communication impacts all of these areas.
Clear communication is the most important key to a leader’s success. So to grow as a leader and manager, you must learn to be an effective, compelling communicator. Regardless of whether you are talking about business, politics, sports, or the military, the best leaders are first-rate communicators. Their values are clear and solid and what they say promotes those values. Their teams admire them and follow their lead. The best leaders motivate and inspire their people through clear communication. No matter how powerful your message may be or how competent you are, if you can’t clearly communicate to your team, customers, and audience you will never reach your maximum level of leadership success.
Throughout my professional career, I have been blessed with the opportunity to be managed by amazing leaders. Unfortunately, I have also had the misfortune of being managed by terrible leaders. The difference between those experiences? My manager’s ability to communicate effectively and efficiently, whether they were conveying ideas, delivering instructions, or inspiring and motivating the team through a difficult project. Similar to the U.K. political system, where a party is elected and chooses their leader based on who they think best represents them, it is important that the leader to communicate internally and externally to achieve goals, maintain status, and influence others to believe in whatever they are trying to achieve.
As leader, you are essentially the mascot and spokesperson for your organization. Internal and external stakeholders buy into your company organization based on the reputation you establish for yourself. It’s not just enough to be a figurehead and hold the title; when you are tasked with going in front of an audience to convey your organization or company’s goals and mission, you have to speak with conviction, truth, passion, and a sense of urgency that galvanizes those around you to action. Like the Burson poll found, most people buy based on the CEO’s reputation, which is intrinsically tied to the reputation of an organization as a whole.
When reading this article, I was instantly reminded of the perfect example that epitomizes everything this article stressed: good leadership requires good communication; bad leadership is the result of ineffective or poor communicators. As I mentioned in class, I worked in an environment that was incredibly toxic and was led by an individual who was incredibly intelligent, savvy, and driven. She started a small firm that had made an impact in a short period of time and established relationships with relatively high-profile clients. However, the firm could only go so far because her skills as a communicator, both internally and externally, were lacking.
Internally, instead of leading and being instructional, her words were caustic and verbally abusive. In fact, direct engagement with her was discouraged unless you were at a certain level and people would often remark how awkward it was to observe her communicating with clients or external stakeholders because her communication style was so unnatural and cold. Morale among staff was low and we often felt like chickens running around with our heads cut off because there weren’t any open channels of communication to convey ideas, ask questions, and receive proper and thorough instruction from the person who was supposed to be our leader. Over time she developed a poor reputation in DC, which eventually bled into the firm’s reputation, hurting her ability to attract talent and high-profile
(and high-paying) clients.
Ultimately, the point of the article (and my tragic experience) that rings the truest is this: a good leader is as successful as their communication skills.
We often use the terms “leaders” and “managers” interchangeably but they are not the same. Managers make the organization work FOR them, while leaders set up the environment so the organization FOLLOWS them. In order to be an effective executive figure, one must be able to play both roles.
Executive leadership should not only manage, but lead the organization. The leader usually sets up the corporate culture of the workplace and even dictates the tone in which they communicate. For example, my favorite case study is on Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who revolutionized the way to run an organization. He implemented a new management style called “Holacracy,” that eliminates formal job titles and duties. This allows his employees to explore new roles and responsibilities within the organization.
Like Hsiesh, a leader must also be passionate and create a work environment that adheres to his or her “why.” Once the why, or the mission, of the company is identified, it becomes easier to lead the company. Hsieh bleeds holacracy and embraces it, even in his personal life. His entrepreneurial spirit and innovation to change the way we lead, makes him both a strong manager and leader.
Hsieh is a great example of a leader who can “talk the talk and walk the walk.” I strive to implement creative and energetic ways to lead an organization.
Being an effective leader means being an effective communicator. Communication is a key for successful leadership; a leader will not be able to persuade and motivate her/his subordinates if s/he doesn’t have great communication skills. Moreover, S/he will not be able to effectively communicate with customers and investors and present her/his company successfully without these skills.
To be considered a strong communicator, a leader must master the art of active listening. Active listening involves concentrating on the speakers and refraining from any distractions, it also requires to give the speaker the time s/her needs and avoid interruptions.
Leaders are also required to adapt their communication styles to their audience style in order to communicate effectively. They need to know their audience and what interests and influences it, and they need to adjust their styles accordingly. For example, a directive style will be more appropriate to adapt when communicating with subordinates and inspiring style will be the right style to choose when communicating with shareholders.
Leaders should not only master the verbal communication, but also the non-verbal communication. They have to pay attention to all the nonverbal cues from their audience and interpret them. They also need to focus on their nonverbal cues and match them with their words to communicate trust-worthiness to their audience.
Finally, successful leaders know how to shape their words and communicate effectively. They show great respect to their subordinates’ work and listen to their feedback. They also influence and encourage them to bring the best in them in order to thrive and succeed in their careers.