The Importance of Being Authentic when Communicating

Recently I was facilitating a Leadership programme with a large group of mid-level managers.  One area that we discussed in depth was the importance of Leaders being Authentic when communicating. Several of the group talked about how some Leaders are not always authentic and sincere when communicating with their team members.  They felt that this shows that the Leaders don’t care, value or respect the team member.

I remember several years ago, delivering a ten month, Leadership programme for a large group of managers in a large organisation.  Some feedback I received while working with the group, was how some of their Leaders didn’t value, respect or care about the teams.  They told me that some of the Leaders ‘thanked’ them and their teams for the extra hard work they were doing but it was said in such a way that it was meaningless and therefore discounted.  The ‘thanks’ was given in a rushed and non-meaningful way.  I call this type of communication, a ‘tick the box  communication style’.

I had a ‘catch-up’ meeting with the Senior Leaders of this management group and raised the importance of being authentic when communicating.  One Leader said that he had said 12 ‘thank you(s)’ the previous Friday.  I already had inside information that this Leader was an expert at the ‘tick the box communication style’ and literally went through the office and called out thanks as he passed by team members but there was no meaning or sincerity behind his words.

In fairness to this Leader, he may well have felt that he was doing good by saying a lot of ‘thank you(s)’ in one morning but did he stop to think of the effect of what he was doing, or saying was on the person hearing those ‘thank you(s)’?  My guess is not.

Imagine these two different scenarios:

a)    On a Monday morning, a Leader asks one of their Team member’s how their weekend was while looking at their phone, checking their email and then moving away before the Team member has finished what they were saying;

b)    On a Friday afternoon, a Leader asks one of their Team members what their plans are for the weekend while listening to them, nodding their head and asking questions that helps them understand the person better – ‘so you like kayaking and are in a race on Sunday, that’s great.  The best of luck.’

On the Monday, the same Leader seeks out the Team member to ask how the kayaking race went and celebrates with the Team member if he did well or commiserates and supports the Team member if he didn’t do well.

Here’s the rhetorical question, which Leader communicated with authenticity?

Look out for more ways to become a more Authentic Leader in one of my new Learning Video Clips coming soon.