RSS 3 Communication Tactics Every Leader Should Use

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is an atrocious environmental disaster and through all of the media coverage, I have thought a lot about the various levels of leadership currently on display. To say that I have formed some opinions would be an understatement.

It would be easy to laud certain individuals for displaying strong leadership or chastise others for causing more harm than good; however, I will leave such critiques to the media pundits and “talking heads” that are being paid to increase readership or viewership of their respective media outlets. In my opinion, the media’s job is to sell more newspapers or create more viewership, which translates into more advertising opportunities and greater eventual revenues. The unfortunate story in the Gulf has resulted in a huge audience and likely a more robust bottom line.

But back to the point of this article…

Below are three leadership tactics that I feel should have been “musts” in handling this specific disaster. In fact, I believe these are important leadership characteristics whether or not a leader is performing “damage control.”

#1. BE VISIBLE to all constituents and stakeholders.

The Gulf oil crisis provides a great backdrop to the misalignment of the visibility expectations between our business and government leaders and their various constituents.

At what point does a leader, a CEO, government official, small business owner, etc., alter their daily routine and simply connect with their people? To many leaders, altering their daily calendar is hugely inefficient and may be perceived as costly. Looking back at the current issues in the Gulf, I wonder if our leaders might do something different should they have the benefit of hindsight?

#2 TAKE ACTION even if the initial response turns out to be wrong.

The best planning in the world doesn’t guarantee success. Sometimes a leader needs to take action in order to demonstrate they are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

I remember reading somewhere that more than 50% of the decisions a leader makes turn out to be wrong, but that the decisions they make right are the most important ones! Relative to the current oil crisis, my guess is that in hindsight, the affected leaders may have spent the first few days of the crisis in very different ways. They may have wanted to spend more time engaging all stakeholders on how they might work together to solve the problem rather than work “in a vacuum” and create a perception of a lack of accountability.

We need to remember, however, that the ultimate goal is to find a quick and permanent solution to this immediate crisis and create new industry risk guidelines such that similar tragedies can be avoided. These are the most important decisions that need to be addressed.

#3 COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY so everyone knows their role and can move forward toward a common goal.

The lack of consistent communication and messaging throughout this oil crisis has been very bothersome to me. Effective leaders accept responsibility, communicate the truth, and share information in a forthright manner in order to enhance their personal credibility and build or create trust in their organization. They also manage expectations appropriately so that their stakeholders feel good about the eventual outcome.

A rule of thumb I always try to “under promise” and “over deliver”; these tactics usually work well in public relations, human resource management and client relationships. And while it’s a bit cliché, I have found that stakeholders prefer to know with a high degree of certainty what to expect at any given time.

Had those involved in the oil crisis used this philosophy from the outset, I suspect some of the negative initial perceptions could have been preempted or avoided altogether.

Please feel free to comment on the items I’ve share above, or offer any other leadership lessons you have taken away from the Gulf oil crisis. I’d love to hear them!

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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