A top executive recently wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal listing the top “10 Tips for New Executives”, and two important communication skills were among them. Fay Vincent rose to the top of three distinctly different enterprises, demonstrating that he knows what he’s talking about. He’s the former president and CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., executive vice president of Coca-Cola Co., and the eighth commissioner of Major League Baseball. He’s the kind of person we’d all like to have had advice from in the early stages of our careers, and his 10 Tips are insights he wishes he had known sooner.
The two communication skills he included on his list are
- Listening for advice
- Explaining your strategy frequently, stated in different ways
Why are these two skills important? Vincent explains that regular interaction with employees at all levels and listening to what they’re talking about is essential for effective leadership. You need to know what’s important to the people you’re asking to follow you. If anyone wants to talk with you, take time to listen to their views and if it’s a criticism, consider the person’s position and respond thoughtfully, even when you disagree.
Repeatedly explaining your core strategy will ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction and maximizing productivity. By rephrasing the strategy periodically, people at all levels, who may have different communication skills and vocabularies, will be sure to hear your meaning. In other words, let there be no doubt what success looks like in your organization. I would add to this that telling stories of “people caught doing things right” is a proven way to make your goals clear. People understand a story and can apply the lesson to their own jobs much more easily than they can “translate” a high-level mission statement. Are you listening?