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Leaders Communicate Like Copper

There are lots of different opinions on how responsive one should be at work. Even more so for the leadership. Most of the arguments against being a quick communicator / responder are about unnecessarily conflating that with productivity. I think that’s weird. Sure, for a leader, being a very active communicator need not mean they’re also productive at what they need to do. But if a leader is a lazy communicator, that is most likely fatal.

The leadership should be as proactive, quick and clear in their communication as possible. No exceptions.

Information is organisation fuel

Leadership is an active role with necessary face time. As a leader, you’re privy to the highest order discussions, changing priorities and decision-making. In such a situation, it’s imperative to recognise when a piece of information is mature and vital. As soon as that happens, you need to package it and pass it along to the people who should know.

Organisations run on effective flow of information, just like fuel in an engine. If you don’t keep refilling it, dysfunction sets in. People who repeatedly receive late and diluted information from non-direct sources start to feel disconnected. If this keeps on going for long, that disconnect turns into disinterest and lack of motivation.

Timely flow of information keeps the spirit of building and working together alive.

Why leaders fall short in communicating effectively

Information that is obvious, well-known and common knowledge to you in your position is usually not so for the rest of your team. That is because propagating information takes conscious and active effort from the leadership. And very few do it really well.

Leaders tend to:

  • Take their own info-awareness as the default and get lazy: “I’m sure everyone else is also aware of this!”
  • Think information transfer isn’t real work: “If I keep messaging and replying to people, when will I do deep work?”
  • Think it’s not critical and could be distracting: “Why would I overwhelm them with all this context? I’ll tell them if they need to know.”

All of the above are occasionally fine – like I understand if you genuinely don’t want to inundate a designer with a long-winded story about why certain project took a different path. But in almost all scenarios, over-communicating is better.

Communicating as a leader

Your main 3 operating tools are insight, intuition and information. You need to share them liberally and on time.

  • Share insights to spark ideas: Found an interesting user behaviour? Validated something important with users? Share it and start a discussion thread with your team.
  • Share intuition to guide your team with directions: Unblock your team by sharing the frameworks and principles you use to inform your own judgment and decisions.
  • Share information around priorities & expectations (both timeline and fidelity) to gain trust: A team that is fully informed and well aligned can do wonders in generating the desired outcomes even with the constraints.

Communicate like how copper conducts electricity. Not like how rubber does it.

I learned this from the early days of leading a large team. Staying on top of my comms would always be critical for my success and the team’s success. I pretty much keep my Slack on Inbox Zero throughout the day. I also DM my Design Leads a lot. Anything I get to know that they should be aware of, they know it within the next 10 minutes. Not once have any of them ever come to me asking me to tone down the influx of information. Every bit I share helps keep the team very tightly aligned.

PS: Being a source of reliable and clear information is a direct path to gaining organisational influence. Although that shouldn’t really be your goal, it sure helps.