Why Leaders Can’t Over-Communicate

5 Reasons to Speak Up and Speak Often

Leaders face a lot of problems, but poor communication is one they often create for themselves. In fact, nine in ten employees say it sabotages the success of executives, according to one study.

The same study found the second biggest problem area for leaders was a lack of clear directions. I think this probably applies across the board—everything from mission and core values down to day-to-day operations.

I get it. Sometimes, as leaders, we think we’ve said what needs to be said. We’re actually worried about over-communicating. We don’t want to sound like a broken record.

Only Half Done

When I was at Thomas Nelson, I felt like I repeated myself a lot. I began to fear that I was wearing people out by repeating the same things over and over.

I expressed my concern to one of my consultants who said, “When you get tired of hearing yourself and you think that everyone is starting to get annoyed, you’re about half done.”

It was an important insight. What’s crystal clear for us is often fuzzy for others. Our job is to bring definition and clarity to those we serve.

It reminds me of something the Apostle Paul said: “It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” (Philippians 3:1) Repetition is part of the job.

5 Reasons to Speak up and Speak Often

The truth is you can’t over-communicate. It’s impossible. Here are five reasons why this is true.

  1. People can’t read your mind. We all know this. But most of us forget. When we force people to guess what we’re after, we widen the margin for error and misunderstanding. You need to get what’s in your mind into the minds of your teammates. That only comes with communication.

  2. People forget. No matter how clear your strategy and tactics are to you, others will forget. My friend, Andy Stanley, sometimes says it this way: vision leaks. No one retains it all. Constant communication helps people hold onto what matters most.

  3. People get distracted. Modern work is plagued by distraction. As leaders, we can do things to combat that—and we should—but we also compensate by continually communicating what’s important to our teams.

  4. People haven’t bought your rationale. Just because people work for us doesn’t mean they subscribe to the mission or the values behind the individual tasks they’ve been hired to do. If you’re serious about results, you’ll either need to let those people go or bring them up to speed.

  5. People drift off course. Even if team members buy into your vision or the importance behind specific tasks, they can lose sight of the target and drift off course. A leader’s communication is the compass of the organization. It keeps everyone oriented and moving toward the right goals.

Communication is a critical factor in team alignment. And team alignment is a critical factor in hitting organizational goals.

Even if you think you’ve said it before, it probably bears repeating. In fact, I’d bet money it does. And it’s not a bet we can afford to lose.

Question: Have you ever been frustrated because your leaders weren’t clear in their expectations? How did that affect you?

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