Effective communication has three qualities: clarity, simplicity, and brevity. Kraemer believes that communication is one area where most leaders could use improvement. Communication is certainly important, but more communication does not necessarily result in more effective communication. On the other hand, some leaders believe that employees only need a brief explanation of a task and may simply send an email or voicemail. Yet, taking time to communicate completely dramatically increases the likelihood that assignments will be completed in a satisfactory way. Leaders should never be too busy to communicate.
If an issue is ongoing, leaders may feel that they have communicated about it enough. In reality, people should always be reminded of issues that remain high priority for the organization. Kraemer recommends using a military technique called “back briefing” to guarantee that a message has been communicated clearly to an employee. With this approach, the leader gives an assignment to an employee, then the leader asks the employee how they will approach the task.
Another communication problem that leaders often encounter is communicating frequently when times are going well, but ceasing communication when a problem arises. Kraemer recommends telling employees immediately what leaders know about an issue and how soon information will be available about the unknowns. When leaders fail to communicate during a crisis, problems are always perceived to be worse than they really are. Kraemer’s rule is that his team should know everything that he knows.
Although many view communication as what is conveyed verbally, other contributors to effective communication are trustworthiness, being a good listener, and relating to every team member. When leaders are open and honest, they are more likely to be perceived as credible and trustworthy. Experts suggest that 90 percent of effective communication is listening. Yet many people who do not have self-confidence (one of the key principles of values-based leadership) find listening difficult. The higher up the corporate ladder a leader progresses, the more important it becomes to relate to team members. Relating to employees is especially important in global companies, where people come from different cultures and often have different communication practices.