Leadership Advice

Managers: Here’s why your messages fall flat, create fear, or confuse people

Advice from Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago and Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

Today’s leadership lesson is a quick read with a quick communication tip. To ensure that your messages have the impact you’d like, make certain to apply the power of “here’s why.” Some examples:

  • Positive feedback. “Great job” is nice. “Great job, and here’s why…” with specific details makes it more likely your praise will be remembered and the good work repeated. 
  • Email invitations. If your email says, “Could we talk tomorrow at 10 a.m.?” your employee may fear there’s something terrible lurking. You might think such fear is irrational, but it is more common than you know. Be sure to add the “here’s why” to keep someone from needless anxiety.
  • CC’ing people. Our inboxes are awash in correspondence that copies us but leaves us wondering why. Don’t assume people know why you’re looping them in. Your intent can’t be misconstrued if you simply offer a “here’s why.” For example, “I’m cc’ing Sarah because this could affect her budget” shows you’re being intentionally, rather than indiscriminately, inclusive.
  • Status inquiries: Your one-line correspondence asking a staffer “Where do we stand on the project?” can come across as “Why isn’t it done yet?” when that’s not your intent at all. Your “here’s why” may be curiosity or the need to include information about the project in a report or at a meeting. Share the “why.”

Remember, leaders, because you have power, your words carry great weight. So do the gaps in your communication, which people can fill with their worst fears. Your team members benefit from specificity in your feedback and clarity about your intentions. You’ll get credit for being a good communicator. And that’s why I wrote this column for you.

©Jill Geisler


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Tim Morrissey
Tim Morrissey
1 year ago

Solid advice – and here’s why: too many “leaders” fail to follow the basic but essential communication steps you’ve so clearly outlined here.

Nancy E
Nancy E
1 year ago

Excellent points. I have had numerous managers that forgot what it is like to be the employee. Clarity and respect are essential to a good professional relationship.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nancy E