Join Jeff Weiner for an in-depth discussion in this video Effectively communicating: Authenticity, part of On Leadership by Jeff Weiner.
- Alright, let's talk about how to effectively communicate both your vision and your conviction, because you can have clear vision, you can have the courage of your convictions, but if you can't effectively communicate those two things, it's going to be challenging to lead others, it really is, and you can lead through words. You can lead through actions or deeds, ideally. It's been my experience that you lead through both your actions and your words. You're not just talking a good game. You're not just talking to talk, but you're walking the walk and both of those things matter. So let's talk about some kind of experiences and some things I've learned over the years that I think help people to be more effective communicators, especially from a leadership perspective. So once again, rule of three, we're going to talk about kind of three pillars. Authenticity, there's that word again, transparency and repetition. And I think repetition quite ironically will be repeated for you because we covered that when we talked a little bit about vision and values and the importance of repeating a narrative in order for people to internalize it and be able to understand and act upon, but we're going to start with authenticity and you know, long story short, and I think we've been really talking about this quite a bit thus far in today's discussion. You want to be able to align who you are. What's important to you, what you believe, what you do, what you feel and what you say, and you want that to be an honest representation of who you are. You don't want to, how many of you are familiar with an expression called covering? Has anyone ever heard that expression before in the context of dips covering? So for those that are less familiar, that's when you feel like in order to fit in with others, you need to cover up who you really are, regardless of how you define who you are, regardless of ethnicity, ideology, orientation. People sometimes feel like in order to be accepted, in order to belong, they need to cover up who they are. And you'd be amazed by the way it's not just folks that you would think are normally in a position where they may be a minority or may be uncomfortable. This impacts everybody, believe it or not, and everyone feels on some level like they have to be someone else in order to be accepted. It's it's very human. And so to the extent you can connect, you take the time to define what's important to you. You take the time to define how you're going to get that done. And you understand that you want to honor it. And every turn, anytime you need to cover up who you are, it's going to impede your ability to effectively communicate, especially as a leader. You want to be true to yourself. Anytime you find yourself saying something you don't believe, anytime you find yourself doing something you don't believe people are going to take notice, and it's going to speak volumes to them, volumes. So authenticity is absolutely essential. You want to get all of these things in sync, okay? And that's when you're going to show up as a leader and be your most effective in terms of how you're communicating through both words and actions. There's another component to authenticity in my opinion. And it's a tricky one and it's vulnerability. And it's knowing how to strike the right balance with regard to vulnerability. What happens when a leader shows no vulnerability ever? What happens when they don't show emotion? They don't show weakness. They don't admit when they've made mistakes. What happens when they try to mask or cover their frailties as a human being. So implicit in that is any time someone's up in front of you, anytime someone's communicating with you, anytime someone's building a relationship with you and they never show any vulnerability, it's in a way they're not being honest in a way, not necessarily with nefarious intention, they may be doing so because they think you want that strength, right? Well, that's the way they're supposed to act. But if you can't trust that person, how are you going to believe the other stuff that they're saying? The really important stuff that they're saying or doing, and that trust is the bedrock of that relationship and that effective leadership . Vulnerability can lead to not so pleasant situations. You got to listen. We talked about trust and not trusting a leader who's being inauthentic, and it works in both directions. If you don't trust the people that you're surrounded with, making yourself vulnerable in front of people, you don't trust, that's not only conceded, that can be dangerous because people can take advantage of it. Sometimes people do have nefarious intentions. So I literally just got off a phone call earlier today with a founder and a first time CEO who's been at it for over a decade at a startup. I invested in a long time ago and I helped coach her from time to time, and it's a consumer product business and had a very rough holiday season, very rough, and they missed their numbers materially. And I could hear, she sent me an email. She said, do you have some time today? And I was like that, this can be good. And seriously, she never, when she wants coaching, it's scheduled weeks or months in advance. So I just happened to have a few minutes. It was very early in the morning. I called her and said, what's going on? And immediately I could hear it. I mean, her voice was almost quivering and they missed in a big way. They missed the holiday season. Holiday season, for those that know the consumer product world, especially when you're selling something that can be used as a gift, it's a big deal. And they'd have very predictable model for the better part of a decade, and the show that didn't happen. And there were significant consequences because of accounts receivable, cash flow. What's going to happen early next, I mean this whole thing. So I could hear in her voice, she was panicking. She was literally panicking and she wanted to talk to me about potentially fundraising and a bridge. And I think what she really wanted was advice and some comfort. She was making herself extraordinarily vulnerable. I mean, it was just transparent. And I shared with her a theme that we all talked about a few years back, which is every growth company, every hyper-growth company ever, no matter how successful that company has been experiences substantial obstacles and downturns, whether as a public company that your stock price or as a private company, it's your revenue deceleration or your profitability hit its targets, and then a lot of these companies experience these very significant disruptions to their business on multiple occasions. Every single company without fail, all of them. And some of them go through it over and over again until they emerge on the other side. And I was saying that to her to remind her that right now, it feels like the world's coming to an end. It's all coming crashing down, and she's thinking about her investors, and she's thinking about her employees and she's thinking about her customers, and she's thinking about her professional reputation, and that was the time and place to make herself vulnerable with me. So I could help her and guess what she was doing after we got off the phone, guess who she was speaking to next? Her team. She had scheduled all hands to share the results. And she said, thank you, thank you. Because now I can take this energy and I can take that to my team. And I had said to her, if you take this energy that you're expressing with me, which is absolutely the way it should be, lay it on me, and you take that to your team, you're going to have a big problem on your hands. It's almost akin to saying, I don't know what I'm doing, right, to your point earlier about when it's appropriate, when it's not appropriate. If the team were to sense that panicky energy, how do you think the team would respond? Panic, literally panic. Leaders model behavior, and people feel that energy far more than the words that you're using. We're going to come back to that in just a moment. So bottom line, this is such an important point for all of you as leaders, emerging leaders. It's about striking the right balance. It's about striking the right balance, about recognizing that you're a human being. You're not infallible. Nobody is. Nobody is. And for all the reasons that you expressed and articulated so beautifully, it's not a good idea to hold back your humanity and to act the way you think people want you to act. And to just be strong all the time. It's not how to forge the right connection. It's not how to build trust. And at the same time, if all you're doing is showing vulnerability, your team's going to check out. That's not what they're looking for in their leaders. They want people who have that strength, that inner strength and the resolve to help manage through the most difficult times, even if you don't have all the answers to be able to fall back on that perseverance, that resiliency and your vision and those values. That's why that stuff matters so much, okay? So authenticity and as a part of authenticity, vulnerability, really important to be an effective communicator.
Learn about the importance of maintaining awareness of yourself, your team, your industry, and the world at large. Explore the topic of synthesis, which you achieve through developing your vision and values and by focusing on the most important priorities. Plus, learn about the role of inspiration in leadership, both in terms of being true to your own values and motivating others.