8 communication mistakes leaders still make

8 communication mistakes leaders still make

Even if leaders prize communication skills on their team, they may be unintentionally guilty of these faux pas. Take your foot out of your mouth with these tips

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Bad habits in IT

5. They praise how they want to be praised

“In our work with leaders, we have found that they often assume that employees want the same type of recognition that they desire. For instance, leaders with a love for public recognition are more likely to publicly recognize, even their most reserved direct reports. In contrast, leaders who are more inclined to dislike recognition (some do), often do not think about recognizing their employees, beyond a quick thank you.

“Recovering from uncomfortable recognition or the complete lack of recognition is completely possible. Leaders should ask their employees how they like to be recognized and, during the conversation, they should explain how they enjoy being recognized and how that desire has influenced their approach. Conversations are often the key to correct communication faux pas.” – Daniel Freschi, president of EDGE 

6. They don’t apologize for mistakes

“I have witnessed IT leaders make huge gaffes. Like the time the CIO made the analogy that the company was like a 'roach motel – people come and never leave' when talking about their low turnover rate at a town hall meeting.

"If you are earnest and forthright, people are likely remember your courage as well as your mistake.”

“If you accidentally stick your foot in your mouth, do not make it a joke or try to explain what you 'really' meant. Simply apologize. 'I said something stupid or insulting, and I am sorry.' If you are earnest and forthright, people are likely remember your courage as well as your mistake.” – Alan Zucker, founding principal of Project Management Essentials LLC

7. They procrastinate giving bad news

“The most common mistake middle-management leaders make is procrastinating on bad news. Communicating bad news as early as possible is one of the most critical functions of leaders in this position.

“When things don’t go as planned, the leader can do the right thing (tell the stakeholders) and make the correct recommendations, but some organizations have a culture of shooting the messenger. Some stakeholders might heed bad news but be resistant to any of the recommendations. Even within an ideal organization, middle-management still has a natural human instinct to seek pleasure and avert pain. Good leaders have to betray this instinct on a regular basis.

“The best way to resolve this issue is through another basic human inclination: rapport. Leaders who build rapport with executives before things go awry are far more likely to confront issues early and get minimal resistance when they do so.” – Gus Cicala is the president, CEO, and founder of Project Assistants

8. They assume people understand what they say

“It does not matter how long one has been leading, we all have blind spots. One common blind spot is assuming just because I heard you, I understand what you mean. In reality, we all filter what is being said to us inside of our own memories and vault of experiences and then interpret what is being said to fit into what we already know. This is why misunderstandings happen often. To counter this blind spot, leaders need to ask clarifying questions and mirror back what is said until everyone is on the same page.” – Janet Zaretsky, executive coach, Certified Conversational Intelligence® Coach, certified behavior and values analyst 

[ Read next: Answers to common digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs: What is digital transformation? A cheat sheet. ]


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