Don’s Derailment

Don was a manufacturing expert whose personal style of being “one of the guys” on the shop floor (including crude language and hard-drinking, back-slapping, dirty-joke-telling, in-your-face, confrontational communication) helped him turn around the operations of a large manufacturing company. An expert in lean manufacturing, he had been popular with the work force while obtaining excellent productivity from his employees.

Don moved from operations director to vice president and then to president over the course of two years. Then he began having problems with his board of directors. His demeanor hadn’t changed from his “one of the guys” persona, and he failed to understand that the board expected him to become more diplomatic, more sophisticated, and more “presidential” in his demeanor, communications, and personal style. He aggressively argued with the board one too many times and was fired after barely six months in the corner office.

The board members didn’t clarify their expectations prior to elevating Don to the presidency, and he didn’t ask for clarification. Too bad. His considerable talents were lost to the company and Don was unemployed for more than a year before finding a plant manager position at a much smaller company.

Lessons Learned

As you move to progressively more responsible positions your reporting relationships – and the expectations that go with them – are going to change. Don didn’t take the time to step back, clarify expectations, and decide how his approach to others needed to shift. The board was unhappy when he didn’t intuitively understand what they wanted. Do you think Don learned his lesson from what happened to him?

Skill 2 – Communicating for Results

How well you communicate, and how effective you are at using all methods of communication, have a great deal to do with your individual success and the success of your team and organization. When we examine why a manager’s career derails, we often find poor communication skills are a significant part of the problem. As a manager, you will often use verbal and written communication to prompt another person to behave in a certain way or accomplish a specific task. Regardless of your purpose, you want to create, transmit, and receive information as effectively as possible. At the same time, you want to build understanding and enhance your working relationships.

To communicate effectively, you need to be able to balance four major components:

  • Listening
  • Written communication
  • Verbal communication
  • Nonverbal communication

What do you think? Of the 8 Essential Skills, it seems to me that Communication comes next after Managing Yourself. So, what do you think is involved in effective communication – Communicating for Results?

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