Join John Ullmen for an in-depth discussion in this video Communicate to motivate, part of Executive Leadership.
- A recent study in Harvard Business Review concluded to thrive as a C-level executive an individual needs to be a great communicator, a collaborator, and a strategic thinker. We covered collaborating and strategic thinking. When it comes to executive leadership communication, here's a principle I want you to prioritize. Communicate to motivate. One of the things new CEOs report being most surprised about in their role is how everything they say counts. People around them are prone to take offhand comments as directions.
This happens as you rise through the ranks. The more responsibility you have, the more consequences come from everything you say. When you speak as an executive, take a cue from a famous part of the Hippocratic oath that physicians take. First, do no harm. Be thoughtful and intentional about what you say. Don't let words fly out of your mouth that will do damage to your team, your organization, or your reputation. Don't communicate to demotivate. A few years ago, I ran a session for an aerospace leader who wanted his team to generate innovate ideas for reaching their challenging goals.
After the team worked energetically all day, he came in to hear their proposals. Before they even finished the first one, he said, ah, that'll never work. In two seconds, he decimated their morale. There was a study of the Fortune 500 CEOs that determined a sizable majority were introverts instead of extroverts. This surprised many people, because being a CEO calls for so much communication, in so many situations, in front of so many audiences, you'd think most would be extroverts, but no.
A key factor, extroverts often speak before they've fully formulated their thoughts and are more prone to saying something that turns out to be wrong or inappropriate. They can be seen as high risk communicators for high level positions. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't speak with passion. For introvert executives, that can sometimes be a challenge. You can be energizing. Just know what you're saying and why you're saying it. Ensure your words and motives have integrity. Speak thoughtfully and with positive purpose.
Mayor Billy Kenoi of Hawaii Island put it well in a wonderful commencement speech. He said, my father used to tell me don't just think before you talk, think and feel before you talk. That way, everything you say comes from your heart. Whether people agree or disagree with what you say, at least you're being honest. So, it's both, think and feel, head and heart. You don't have to say everything on your mind. Chose what will best serve the people you want to lead. Choose what best helps their performance, growth, and morale.
This leads to another key point. Add inspiration to information. As an executive leader, you're not just dispensing data, passing instructions along, and doling out information. Given your role, you're constantly seen as the spokesperson for why questions. Why should we care? Why should we try harder? Why should we believe we can succeed? Think of the best answers to the why questions that are most likely to be on the people's minds for your meeting, conversation, or presentation.
That's the path to feeling, engagement, motivation. That's why I say, don't just inform but also communicate to motivate. Speak to their motives. That's where their passion is, their concerns, their fears, their hopes. That's where people get aligned and engaged and do great things, from strong motives. Gilbert Amelio, president and CEO of National Semiconductor Corporation put it this way. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others.
If a leader can't get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn't even matter. Make your message matter. Communicate to motivate, add inspiration to information.
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- Understanding the four disciplines of executive leadership
- Thinking strategically
- Creating shared purpose
- Inspiring confidence—even under pressure
- Motivating and communicating
- Establishing priorities and focus
- Leading change
- Developing yourself<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.