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4 Rules for Communicating Authentically

Strategies to build trust and transparency within your organization.
Listening and communication skills for executives
photo by flickr user 77Orchids


Building the Strategic CFO
Chapter 7:
Leadership 2013

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: 4 Communication Strategies

Part 3: Leadership Resources

1. Grade your broadcasting skills.
Why: Every day is an opportunity to share news — or avoid doing so. Looking at how you’ve disseminated company news in the past can offer useful clues for how to improve in the future.

How: Review a recent development that could conceivably qualify as “news,” be it financial performance to hiring plans to a refinement in strategy. What did you communicate when? To whom? Via what means? How did employees respond? Is there anything you could have announced earlier, or in a clearer way, or to a wider audience? The core question is, are you being as transparent as possible with employees?

2. Aside from news, also communicate a clearer sense of who you are.
Why: Authentic leadership depends largely on being willing and able to show your human side. “To build trust, leaders must… talk about who they are, what they believe and value, and the personal reasons they make the choices they make,” says leadership coach Kent Lineback.

How: Whether you finally take the plunge on social media, initiate a small-group lunch series, or simply aim for more frequent chats with employees in the cafeteria, avoid the temptation to offer a predictable pep talk. Talk honestly about your decision-making process, the company’s competitive position, and other relevant organizational issues. And be prepared to listen as well. Solicit counter-arguments.

3. Test the degree of alignment among your senior team by asking a single question: If we had a 5% increase in business, could your department handle it?
Why: The goal of this one-question exercise, says HDI management consultant Carlos Maese, is to help people identify what they may be doing that is not directly related to growing or improving the business.

How: Ask the question and study how the responses are articulated. This exercise will not only reveal tactical steps that can be taken to prepare for growth (eliminating overlapping efforts, for example, or highlighting tasks that can be shifted to others), but will reveal a lot about each team member’s ability, or willingness, to describe their current responsibilities and priorities.

4. Keep talent pipeline robust (and secure) by making sure that key players don’t feel taken for granted.
Why: A classic management mistake is trying to satisfy everyone (by, say, offering small across-the-board raises) rather than focusing on the people who have the most valuable skills, knowledge or talent.

How: This is a test of how well you know people, versus simply knowing of them. If there are people who are highly regarded by their managers, seek them out and talk to them. “What can I do to make your job better right now?” is a great opener. Find out what they like and don’t like about their current situation, then see what you can do to support any changes around that. You don’t have to offer raises and promotions, but employees should feel valued and celebrated.



Chapters in the CFO action series presented by Build and GE Capital:

Chapter 1: Own the Big Picture

Chapter 2: Create More Time

Chapter 3: Build a Better Team

Chapter 4: The Great Communicator

Chapter 5: Big Data, Big Results

Chapter 6: Think and Act Sustainably

Chapter 7: The Leading Edge

Chapter 8: Think Global, Whether You Are or Not

Chapter 9: Building a Risk-Intelligent Culture

Chapter 10: How to Win the War for Talent

Chapter 11: Technology & You

Chapter 12: The Art of Strategic Influence

Chapter 13: Building the Customer-Centric Organization

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