Leaders who focus only on what they say to employees—through speeches and written words—overlook one of the most powerful ways they communicate: their actions. Without saying a word they can hinder productivity and kill morale.
Check whether you are guilty of any of these five mistakes:
- Failing to communicate. When is the last time you had a conversation with an employee? How often do you talk with employees who are two rungs or more down on the organizational chart? Often leaders talk with everyone except their own team members. They give orders, but they don’t engage in dialogue.
- Blindsiding employees with change. Leaders wonder why it is so difficult to convince employees to adopt changes that an executive team has spent months debating and designing. The problem is that they have left out a key part of the plan: the employees who will be responsible for making the change. The frontline workers don’t understand why the change is necessary, and they see obstacles that the executives overlooked.
- Sending them on goose chases. Employees drop everything to work on a new, urgent priority, and then their work seems to disappear into a black hole. The leader never explains what happened, whether the idea has been dropped, revamped or rescheduled. The next time one of those assignments comes along, the employees think “No need to put much effort into this. It’s just the ‘Idea of the Day,’ and it will pass.”
- Ignoring what employees say. When an employee tells you about a problem, what happens? Many organizations proudly tout their 360-degree evaluation programs and open-door policies, but the employees learn that voicing concerns about a manager or another problem just pegs them as troublemakers. If leaders don’t listen—and act to address problems—employees stop speaking up.
- Failing to keep commitments. Do you deliver what you say you will to your team members, on time every time? Do you treat an appointment with an employee the same way you treat an appointment with an important customer, showing up on time and devoting your full attention to that employee? If you keep the employee waiting, reschedule multiple times and multitask while you are talking, those actions send a clear message to employees that they are unimportant.
To be a trusted, respected and effective leader, pay as much attention to what you aren’t saying as you do to your speeches and memos. Ask yourself: What are my actions telling my employees?