3 Ways Leaders Say More with Less

What do you think is the biggest  organizational problem that leaders need to solve in today’s business environment? I think leaders have a hard job because they need to make sense of what really matters in clear uncertain terms.

I love this book, Rules of Thumb. It’s so easy to pick up and open anywhere.  According to Alan Weber, author of Rules of Thumb, leadership faces a big problem when it is tied to too much information sharing and not enough sense making (“Rule #19: Memo to Leaders: Focus on the Signal to Noise Ratio“).

It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, there are too many messages, too many meetings, too many e-mails, too many buzz words and programs-du-jour.

The problem increases when there is a crisis or a recession, or a recovery from a recession. That’s when too many of our leaders ramp up the volume. They say many of the same things, only louder. There’s an increase the meetings, and even more attempts to inspire and encourage.

It’s all too much. An already overtaxed audience shuts down and stops listening. Instead of creating more engagement, information overload gives in to exhaustion and causes a rejection reaction. People pull back from engagement.

Weber gives good advice in his book: the challenge that leadership must meet today is to provide more signal and less noise. If you’re a leader, your people need three things:

  1. Clarity about purpose
  2. Honesty about values
  3. Focus about metrics

Clarity of Purpose

First, the people you lead need to be able to see what you see. Tell them what really matters. Tell them how to make sense out of conflicting reports and circulating rumors. Connect the dots for them, so they can see the patterns and directions you see.

Honesty about Values

Next, tell them what you feel. Tell them what the company stands for. Give them the big picture. Reinforce the guiding principles and the code of conduct that you live by and that guide your organization.

Live up to your highest ideals, and challenge them to do the same. Give them purpose beyond their jobs, beyond the company. Here’s where story telling comes in. Nothing resonates more with people than when ideals are shown by people’s actions.

Give them a standard of social good they can contribute to. They’ll rally to that kind of leadership if you offer it to them.

Focus about Metrics

Finally, they need to track what you measure. Tell them the few things that really matter when it comes to measuring performance, but as few as possible. Too many things to measure and you’re just adding noise, not signal. Too many measurements adds up to poor tracking, and is just as ineffective as not enough measurement.

Today’s leadership depends on the people at the top making sense of it all. True leadership distills and refines and clarifies, making sense out of all the confusion. If you do that job as the leader, you make it possible for your people to do theirs.

Whatever happened to simple, honest, clear and focused? I wish we’d see more of this, don’t you?

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