The Essence of Leadership Communication

Last summer our team at DickersonBakker conducted a survey of nonprofit fundraisers and leaders.

The results?

Vision, relationships, trust, and strong communication skills were the golden tickets for leadership. But we saw a concerning gap in how current leadership was rated on these attributes, especially in emotional intelligence and communication skills.

As I poured over data points, I couldn’t help but think back to my past bosses. If I were to rate them on their leadership mojo and communication skills, the contrast would be as stark as regular coffee vs. decaf. You know, the battle of the brews where one kick starts your day, and the other is just… meh.

One not-so-favorite leader was like a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an escape room. The team was often playing a guessing game, marinating in uncertainty. We were more like solo artists than an orchestra, each playing a different tune. That workplace was a cocktail of competition and confusion. And needless to say, it didn’t take long before I dumped the decaf where it belonged–in the garbage.

One particularly positive environment stands out (before I joined the fantastic crew at DickersonBakker, obviously). In that setting, our leaders were masters of communication, ensuring the team was thriving in a gossip-free zone. Clarity was king – our expectations and feedback were as dependable and refreshing as the first cup of coffee in the morning. When it came to handling challenging clients, which often occurred, it was a breeze. Our leadership rallied us together, keeping us focused and motivated, with a shared vision that was both clear and inspiring. It was a workplace where enthusiasm and unity were the norm, and each day was a step towards making the world a better place–together.

The Consequences of Communication Gaps

Poor communication in leadership can have far-reaching effects:

  • Decreased Productivity: Misunderstandings and unclear instructions often lead to a decline in team productivity.
  • Low Morale and Employee Mistrust: Ineffective communication breeds frustration, resulting in low morale and an erosion of trust.
  • Negative Interpersonal Relationships: Strained relationships between team members and management are often a byproduct of poor communication.
  • Absenteeism: A demotivated team due to lacking communication often results in an increase in missed work days.
  • Lack of Organizational Alignment: When communication fails, it creates a disconnect between a team’s activities and the organization’s vision, derailing efforts and strategy.

When it comes to donor supported organizations, working together to achieve a dream or increase mission impact is even more critical.

Bridging Communication Gaps: Practical Solutions

To address these challenges and create a culture that is able to change, grow, and improve, consider the following solutions:

  • Implement Regular Cross-Departmental Meetings: Communicate consistently. Regular time to connect can foster open communication, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  • Adopt Clear Communication Tools & Processes: Tools like Slack, Trello, or Hubspot help create transparent channels for sharing information.
  • Promote Intention and Clarity: Communicate clear ideas and vision. If the leader isn’t clear on the intention behind the message, if it’s watered down with unnecessary details, or if key information is missing, the team runs the risk of being confused.
  • Encourage Authenticity, Truth, and Vulnerability: Authentic communication builds trust and relatability within a team. Each time you communicate vulnerability and authenticity, it’s like making a deposit in the relational bank account between you and your team member.
  • Create a Feedback Culture: Encouraging regular feedback at all levels helps identify gaps and fosters a culture of continuous improvement.
  • Appreciate and Acknowledge: Regularly recognizing team members’ contributions can significantly boost morale and increase employee retention.
  • Organize ‘Upskilling’ Initiatives: Focusing on strategic upskilling, particularly at the leadership levels, can enhance communication skills and align efforts with organizational goals.

The Power of Connection and Community

Recent studies suggest that leaders who connect their team’s work to the broader organizational mission are more likely to retain and motivate employees. This connection starts with our skill as leaders in crafting meaningful communications that support individual connections.

A Cohesive Path Forward

At DickersonBakker, we approach change like brewing a perfect cup of coffee. It’s an internal process that starts with selecting the right beans – or in our case, the right strategies for guiding each unique nonprofit towards powerful growth. Just as a barista knows there is ‘a better way’ to extract the richest flavors, we recognize there is ‘a better way’ to steer organizational change.

By implementing these strategies, we can transform our internal dynamics, leading to a more cohesive, efficient, and impactful organization. An early step to sparking change in the nonprofit industry lies in bridging communication gaps, creating a culture of open dialogue, and fostering a connected community.

As we often say around here, Relationships Change Everything (TM).

Crafting meaningful communication that supports connection is a critical part of what we must do when we aspire to change our organization, and thus, the world.

DickersonBakker: Your Partner for Strategy
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your organization achieve its vision through effective communication and strategic planning.

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