We all have those moments when we have inadvertently said the wrong thing or held back and didn’t say what needed to be said. Sometimes these moments are benign. Other times not so much.

Every word, phrase, interaction – or even silence – can have a profound ripple effect for good, better, or worse.

businessman with question mark sign on white background

While honing good communications skills and habits makes good sense for anyone, senior leaders, especially, need to pay greater heed to how they show up in their words, actions and even silences.

While most people have good intentions, it is said that that nine in ten conversations often miss their mark and create communications mishaps. Be it a misunderstanding; an unintended comment that triggers distrust; or a missed opportunity to build awareness, good will and understanding in a larger landscape – these and other communications pitfalls can have far-reaching consequences.

Communications efficacy is a must in the leader’s competency toolbox and not an option.

5 Communications Blunders Leaders From the Top Should Avoid:

1) Winging it.  Saying too much; saying too little – both are problematic. While over-scripting will never bring out the best in any leader, it’s important to balance preparation with authenticity. Even the most natural communicators know when it’s time to think through, plan, and prepare their messages and delivery. Winging it as a go-to communications strategy is a first class ticket to casualties in relationships, reputations and business outcomes —  ‘he/she said ‘what??!!’.

2) Viewing communications strictly from the lens of formal marketing activity.  Every word said, written either formally or informally can have an impact on your reputation and results. Leaders need to equip themselves with strategies and skills for both the formal marketing related opportunities as well as the more informal activities. Whether it be an off the cuff conversation, an email, or an unexpected media call – every conversation counts. Leaders with high levels of “conversational intelligence®” are better equipped to handle the complex and unexpected as well as build trust in relationships, cultures and ultimately inspire greater results.

3) Making ‘too busy’ the reason for not getting out there enough. No question the rapid fire pace of work today makes it ever-more challenging to focus on it all. But communications should never be an add-on once everything else is done. It should be a strategic priority and integrated within the continuum of the leader’s personal development, their work and the organization’s growth. Waiting for more time is not an option because times of ‘crazy busy’ are here to stay.

4) Delegating it all (communications) to others. The leader who thinks the marketing and/or communications departments will handle it all will miss the mark over and over again. Every leader needs to have an executive communications presence. How, what, when and where will depend on the goals, needs and corresponding strategy. But the invisible, nowhere/never heard leader will create ripple effects that that can have damaging repercussions.

5) Not having an executive communications plan or the right communications support team: Good communications spans both the inner game and outer game of your business. Executive communications opportunities, risks and challenge are many and they cross the borders of internal and external landscapes. Large organizations often have an ‘Office of the President’ to ensure the top voices are appropriately leveraged and heard and the risks managed.

You don’t have to be a large company to leverage this strategy. But you do need a plan and the right people to help you leverage opportunities, craft the right messages, and help you bring your best leadership forward in words, voice and presence.

Start-ups in particular, often miss this senior-level communications opportunity as they are often ‘building the plane’ as they go and are in ‘racing mode’. I say this without judgment. But start-ups have all the more reason to integrate a sound communications plan at the executive level from the get-go (and throughout their company’s evolution). More on this in a follow-up article.

Your executive communications partner(s) should bring experience, communications efficacy, strategic acuity, collaborative skills, — and an astute understanding of the importance and impact executive communications can and should have on your organization. Equally important – your Executive Communications plan needs to be customized for you, your organization and the opportunities and challenges at hand.

Are your communications creating the ripple effects you want? Is it time to take a close look at your executive and leadership communications?  Learn more about how an Executive Communications Suite™  program can customize the right support for you. 

Eileen Chadnick, ABC, PCC, ACPC, brings more than 25 years of experience to her work as an award-winning communications professional, an executive coach, and trusted advisor to senior leaders and organizations. Principal of Chadnick Communications and Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto, Eileen helps clients advance personal, professional and organizational well-being through leadership and communications excellence. Full bio available.