Organizations require good communications to accomplish anything. And that means they need good communicators at their helms.
As a general rule, the better the communications, the better the organization. And the better the communicator, the better the communications. It’s a virtuous circle.
But be careful about assumptions. Some people assume the need for good communications means you need leaders who are extroverts – people for whom effective and regular communications seem to come naturally. But that’s not true.
Introverts can become fine communicators and effective leaders. It happens all the time – although it may require a little extra effort.
Consider the case of the Chairman and CEO of Anaplan. He recently began a column by writing: “My name is Frank Calderoni and I am an introverted CEO.” If he hadn’t included his last name, he would have sounded like he was at an Introverts Anonymous meeting (if there is such a group).
He notes that “one study found that 70 percent of CEOs described themselves as introverts and another found introversion to be a hallmark of high performing chief executives.” If you’re an introvert, take heart.
Calderoni has three suggestions for introverts who want to be better communicators.
1. Get over the fear of saying the wrong thing. Noting that “the only way to overcome that discomfort is to have positive experiences,” he suggests you start with people you know and trust. Try to do a little better each time. “I learned that when you do make a mistake,” he says, “the best thing to do is own it, correct it and move on.” The goal is not to be perfect but to be trustworthy.
2. Seek constant feedback. George Wiegel, a biographer of Pope St. John Paul II, tells how the young priest formed a group of trusted friends to critique his homilies. Some told him they were too long and complicated. He listened. Calderoni did the same, confessing it sometimes hurt. “At times, I have received cringe-worthy feedback where I instantly wanted to defend myself. But I paused because those who gave me this feedback cared enough to tell me. I thanked them and I did my best to improve for the next time.”
3. Prepare, prepare, prepare. “I’ll make notes of ideas I want to cover in calls or conferences. Even if it’s just an informal, 20-minute talk, I’ll take time to prepare,” he says. A key part of that preparation is “to understand as much as I can about the audience” because it “helps me genuinely connect with people whether in person or virtually.”
Another suggestion is to build systems to help assure regular communication that builds trust. Staff meetings are essential. Weekly meetings are important. In some situations even daily “stand up” meetings at the start of the day can be helpful. Keep everyone standing so they end quickly.
Consider an in-house e-newsletter or staff. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even very attractive. Let staff people drop in short notices about anything that concerns them. That helps break down silos.
Also use group emails or texts to keep people engaged. Share a friendly note or a brief thought about a reading for the day. What just happened? What’s coming up? Did you come across something funny? How can you generate a little enthusiasm for something on the calendar?
And don’t forget prayer. Keep reminding yourself, “You are not alone.” Turn things over to God. Remember, even Jesus got help carrying his cross.