How to Fix Communication Problems within Your Leadership Team

Let’s talk about how you can get your green industry leadership team to break down some barriers and connect with each other. Even if your team performs fairly well at this, (and most don’t), my bet is that it still has a way to go to get the kind of consistent results that can create the best work environment for your team and add dollars to your bottom line

According to the McKinsey & Company, “Many management teams pay lip service to the importance of interaction, and foster a working style that inhibits candid communication and collaboration.” McKinsey and Company go on to report that one of the main reasons for this happening is poor dialogue.

With most of the green industry leadership teams I have worked with, I’ve seen a pattern where members have strong behavioral styles and who, many times without realizing it, work at cross purposes. This can lead to incomplete or poor communication, short tempers, hidden agendas, and ultimately, a disappointing company performance. In short, it is not a happy or profitable place to work.

Let‘s take a look at how poor dialogue can play such a critical role in sabotaging the success you want for your leadership team, and how to prevent it.

Even though the members of your leadership team work together and communicate through face-to-face, voice-to-voice emails and texting, they often miscommunicate. Some of the reasons for this include:

• lack of self confidence

• an environment that penalizes independent thinking

• conflicting behavioral styles

• internal politics

• one-upsmanship

• withholding of important information

• keeping quiet about critical opinions

• going along with the general consensus for fear of being ostracized

This type of behavior leads not only to mistrust and unproductive results, it serves to undermine the true essence and power of your leadership team.

In most of the companies I’ve worked with, each president or CEO tells me he wants his leadership team to tap into its true talent and skill sets. Some of the reasons are:

• Doing so assures a higher return of their leadership potential.

• The leadership team will be happier.

• Their employees and customers will be more satisfied.

• The company or organization will be more profitable.

But, running a business is complicated, and issues get in the way. Invariably, people and their behavioral styles, customer demands and employee issues all contribute to the blockage of clear communication.

It’s like the analogy of a captain and his/her crew on a ship. Working together as a team, it’s critical that everyone communicates clearly and consistently, for the vessel to reach its port of call safely and on time.

When the crew doesn’t communicate properly, the ship can be thrown off course and be delayed in reaching its destination. This can dramatically increase the cost of sailing the ship. Additional resources must be tapped to help the ship reach its port of call. In some cases, this lack of communication can take the vessel so far off-course that it threatens the safety of the entire crew and passengers, adding tremendous costs.

One way to prevent poor dialogue within your leadership team is to model clear communication and trust. In other words, walk the talk. Nothing builds a company faster than breaking down walls of misunderstanding by having open and honest communication.

In one company I worked with, the owner was a domineering type. He intimidated most of the people who worked there. As a result, it was a work culture mainly based on fear. A curious thing would often happen when he would walk into the room. People would change the subject and/or quickly end their conversation, and soon afterwards leave the room.

The administrative assistant informed me that, on several occasions, the salespeople who were on the road would call in before they stopped by the main office. They would inquire if the owner was in the office, and if so, there was a tendency for them to change their plans and not stop in to take care of their administrative duties during that particular timeframe.

Why did this happen? It happened because of the owner’s caustic personality. This man was a motivational leader, but a poor manager. He had many positive qualities, but they were outnumbered by his negative ones. Thus, this company was never able to advance to its highest operating level. Don’t let this happen in your company or organization.

Here’s another way to prevent poor dialogue among your leadership team. When you as the leader make a mistake, admit it quickly and correct it as soon as possible. Your example communicates with lightning speed that you are accountable, can be trusted, and that life goes on.

This visibly and subconsciously serves as a teaching moment for your leadership team to emulate. If you are consistent with this approach, they will follow your lead when they make mistakes, by admitting them and fixing them as soon as possible.

When everyone on your leadership team is able to engage in open and honest communication, it can result in more dedicated leaders and team members, and minimal staff turnover—a company following its vision and reaching its goals.

Another way you can build a communicative leadership environment is to ask for your team’s input often. Keep an open mind towards what you hear and don’t get defensive. Remember the saying, “When two people in business always agree, one of them isn’t necessary.” In other words, you can’t expect to be right all the time. That is why you have a leadership team to begin with: to point out when the company or department gets off-course Encourage honest disagreement and open dialogue about what people differ on. Ask for suggestions about how to remedy the problems that are identified and communicated. This way, any criticism can be leveraged into a profitable solution. When you do this on a consistent basis, you will get the truth more often. And with the truth, you can solve problems and build your company.

Make it a mantra that, as a team, your entire company stands together to support one another, and collaborates to identify and solve any challenges the future may bring. When everybody is on the same page, they will find that they truly can create the best work environment for your entire company, and add profits to the bottom line.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Borg is an employee performance and customer-experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. To ask him a question or to hire Tom, contact him at: 734- 404-5909 or tom@tomborg.com or www.tomborgconsulting.com.