Leadership for Life – Communicating with Employees

By on April 1, 2012
Communicating with Employees

Our Leadership experts will be sharing tips and insights for everyone, at any station in life, at both home and work. Leadership for Life – the skills you embrace represent who you really are at all times.

I just came across a review of a book written in 1942. Better late than never, I guess. The book is Sharing Information with Employees by Alexander Heron. The review is part of a new blog by Les Landes: Too Good to Be New (http://www.toogoodtobenew.org/reviews/sharinginformationwithemployees).

Great leaders believe that communicating with their employees is a key element in maintaining productivity, engagement, and morale, while at the same time helping to reduce turnover, especially among those who are idea-generators. Is the principle of good communication a new idea, something recently sprung from some soft-skills guru? Nope, it’s been around for a long time, as demonstrated by some of the content in Heron’s book, published 70 years ago. As my colleague George Friesen frequently reminds me, Henry Ford had many cogent ideas about organizational communication in his book, My Life and Work (1926, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7213). I’ll venture out on a limb and say that someone can probably find similar sentiments and information in material that comes from millennia ago, perhaps from Classical Greece.

Landes illustrates some of Heron’s ideas and picks up on a couple that I thought were particularly on point in today’s work environment:

“The first element [in sharing information] … is the understanding by employees that facts about the enterprise are not being concealed from them. The knowledge that they can get the information they want is more important than any actual information that can be given to them.”

Another pertinent passage (quoted by Landes) illustrating Heron’s understanding of the importance of communication among people sharing a mission is:

“The American idea has no place for a class predestined to be wage earners incapable of understanding a world beyond the workbench, no place for a class which is denied the opportunity to reason its conclusions on facts which it helps to create, no place for a class which is happier because ignorant of anything beyond the daily task. And those whose sense of superiority leads them to believe in either the necessity or the desirability of such classes are themselves enemies of the American idea or ignorant of its genius.”

The bottom line (we’re getting closer to it) is that regardless of titles and rank, people in organizations, who share the same mission, who pursue the same vision, can succeed in carrying out their mission only when they communicate clearly and frequently. Leaders have to, er, take the lead in making this happen.

What kind of organization do you work for? Are you part of an “open book” company, or a strict “need to know” enterprise? What effect does that have on your own sense of engagement?

And speaking of communication, we’re glad to get some from our legion of loyal followers. Comment below or write to me directly at bschapiro@stlcc.edu.

About Barry Schapiro

Barry is the Workforce Solutions Group Practice Leader for Leadership and Professional Development. His experience includes delivery and management of business training in a variety of industries, with specialties in leadership, team development, generational diversity, and customer service. Twitter

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