Communication is critical to ensuring alignment, trust and overall success. As a leader, do you keep your stakeholders on speed dial or do you push snail mail updates? The difference says a lot about what type of leader you are. Toxic leaders tend toward snail mail while the servant leader pushes for speed dial.
Snail mail is the traditional, archaic mail publication – hard copies requiring “5 to 10 business days for delivery”. Here, snail mail refers to any communication which is reviewed, filtered or otherwise delayed in delivery. If you routinely delay your message’s delivery, then your stakeholders are stuck in the snail mail generation. Leaders who want to “spin” the message, such as trying to make a negative sound positive, often need the time to revise wording before distribution. Likewise, leaders who want to control the messages sent from their team often demand communications get filtered up, before they are sent sideways. Stakeholders in these environments have a reason to be suspicious of the leader. That said, there are some instances in which slower types of communication are more appropriate.
When Snail Mail Types of Communication are Appropriate
1. Loss: If your stakeholders are suffering for any reason, chances are a select few, comprehensive and compassionate messages are more important than frequency. However, timeliness still matters – literal snail mail is likely still too slow.
2. Governance: If you work in a highly regulated field, such as medical, legal or politics, what you say can often be misinterpreted or worse – legally damaging. In these cases, thorough reviews of communications may be necessary.
3. Broad Distribution: If you are speaking to millions of viewers, you probably don’t want to “wing it”.
Speed Dial and the Servant Leader
Here, speed dial communications refer to those that are delivered as quickly as possible. Leaders who want to serve stakeholders keep them on speed dial. The quicker your stakeholders receive accurate communications, the more likely they are to trust you are keeping them up to date. As a result, stakeholders are confident you will not hide, spin or alter the facts. Therefore, in most cases, speed dial – frequent, brief and candid communications are best for stakeholders.
Why Speed Dial is Better Than Snail Mail
1. Efficiency: Stakeholders who receive the most timely information can respond to changes quickly.
2. Consistency: Regular updates reinforce alignment.
3. Trust: Like it or not, a void of information is often filled with the worst assumptions.
The point here is not that every message must be shared immediately or that no message can be delayed. Instead, the idea is that having your stakeholders close, in a trusted relationship, should enable quick, consistent and candid communications. Leaders who have this form of relationship and associated communications with key stakeholders, are best able to serve them.
Question: What type of communication do you prefer and why?