Management is easy. Leadership isn't.

Being a manager is easy. If you can show up to work and tell people what to do, or worse, not clearly tell them what to do, and criticize them when things go to hell, you can manage.

Anyone can do it, really. Just like anyone can paint. But grabbing a brush and randomly painting shit on a canvas won't get you the same results Da Vinci got.

Management and leadership are not the same. Let my watercolor painting skills represent your run of the mill management style, and Da Vinci's skills represent great leadership. Get the picture? 

One of the most important skills you must hone to be a great leader is effective communication. Effective communication is communicating in a way that people understand you.

As a leader:

You are responsible for communicating expectations.

You are responsible for communicating why those are your expectations.

You are responsible for communicating when things aren’t going as planned.

You are responsible for communicating how to get them back on track.

You are responsible for communicating when things are going as planned.

You are responsible for communicating how to keep them on track.

You are responsible for communicating that people are exceeding expectations.

You are responsible for communicating that people are not meeting expectations.

If you can’t communicate in a way people understand you, you'll have trouble leading in a way people will follow you.  

Shawn Parr, founder of Bulldog Drummond, accurately wrote:

It’s no secret that ineffective communication is one of the main drivers behind workplace failure. Poor, nonexistent, misdirected and dysfunctional communication are among the biggest reasons companies fail to accomplish their missions….

Chances are your employees don’t always have the opportunity to perform at their optimum because their natural talents go untapped as a result of poor communication and a lack of understanding of who they’re engaging.

So true.

Developing and using effective communication allows you to connect with the people you are leading. It allows you to define your vision with clarity, an important element of leadership I’ve written about before. If no one clearly understands your vision, no one knows whether they are helping you making it a reality.

Effective communication allows you to keep people engaged as you execute your plans. Poor managers shy away from providing candid feedback to people that aren’t meeting expectations. Great leaders are quick to point out what needs improvement. After all, it’s hard to get improvement when you, as a leader, don’t require it, or even ask for it.

How do you know if your communication skills are effective?


Ask members of your team what their understanding of success is. Does it match yours?

Ask them if they have clarity on what is expected of them, and ask them to explain what that is. Does it match your actual expectations?

Ask if they believe they are consistently meeting expectations. Do you agree?

That will help you determine whether your communication up to now has been effective.

If it isn't, what can you do to improve?

Generally, a great place to start is to pay more consideration to the thoughts you have about members of your team, or your team as a whole, that you haven’t said to them directly. 

Do you have people on your team that are consistently hitting the cover off the ball, and you just assume they know, telepathically presumably, that you appreciate them as much as you do? Do you have people on your team that frustrate you so much that you consistently bitch about them to others with complaints you haven't aired to them directly?

These are a couple places to start communicating more effectively. 

Generally speaking, the more uncomfortable a conversation is, the more it needs to be had.