Skip to content
Journal

How avoiding speaking opportunities could hurt your leadership career

  • Only 19 per cent of respondents in a global survey believed that their senior executives had excellent visibility.
  • Speaking opportunities are an opportunity to build meaningful connections and engagement with the people that follow you.
  • Leaders distinguish themselves in their ability to create clarity and speaking is an opportunity to reinforce your narrative and create organisational clarity.

While technology-driven change is accelerating around the world, the 2019 State of the Sector — a global survey of the internal communication profession — found that face-to-face remains one of the most effective communication channels for leaders. Conferences, roadshows and employee town halls were still considered to be the most effective face-to-face channels by 85 per cent of participants. And yet, when asked, only 19 per cent of respondents believed that their senior executives had excellent visibility.

It’s interesting to note that while leaders were rated low in visibility, they were said to be effective communicators by 57 per cent of respondents. With the combination of skills and opportunity, the question remains as to why leaders would not take advantage of speaking opportunities and how avoiding these could hurt your leadership and professional potential?

For some leaders, the resistance to speaking opportunities relates to an issue of personality. When public speaking isn’t a natural talent then you might be more inclined to put forward more charismatic leaders or delegate responsibilities to other team members. For others, it can be an issue of priority. The time and investment required to prepare an all-staff presentation or keynote are high. When compared with the breadth of work to deliver it may simply come back to an issue of what is most important at the time.

When it comes to leading an organisation, every leader deeply understands the consequences of an ineffective leadership approach to finances, culture or strategy. But how many leaders really understand the consequences of a poor leadership approach to communication? The impact of ineffective or non-existent communication is felt throughout the organisation. It shows up in higher turnover, absenteeism, negativity and stress; and it perpetuates lower engagement, morale, innovation and productivity. But the impact isn’t just felt in the organisation, it can also impact your professional potential as a leader.

There are no unimportant moments to speak because every moment you stand in front of your team or organisation is an opportunity to lead.

Visibility

People can’t follow an invisible leader. When you choose not to speak, you are robbing yourself of the potential to build your leadership platform — and as a result — employees and team will often feel disconnected and disengaged. A 2018 Global Engagement Trends report by AON found a strong relationship between an ‘employees ability to communicate and interact with leaders at all levels of the company’ and their level of engagement. Speaking opportunities aren’t just a forum to provide people with information, they are an opportunity to build meaningful connections and engagement with the people that follow you.   

Clarity

2019 Deloitte report found that 81 per cent of respondents see ‘leading through complexity and ambiguity’ as a unique requirement for 21st-century leadership. Because in moments of uncertainty when the narrative is open to interpretation, leaders distinguish themselves in their ability to create clarity. Speaking is an opportunity to reinforce your narrative and create organisational clarity. Netflix’s former chief talent officer Patty McCord puts it like this: ‘If your employees aren’t informed by you there’s a good chance that they will be misinformed by somebody else.’ Every time to stand up to speak is another opportunity to lead people by reinforcing your organisation’s purpose, culture and vision.

Credibility

The global trust index, produced by the Edelman Trust Barometer, a global study into trust in major institutions, currently languishes at distruster level. Today’s leaders cannot assume trust and credibility; we must be willing to build it and earn it. Every moment you have to speak is an opportunity to build and strengthen trust and credibility with your team. As in any great relationship, trust is foundational and forms the currency of organisational commitment. People don’t just want to go somewhere; they want to go with someone they trust.

There are no unimportant moments to speak because every moment you stand in front of your team or organisation is an opportunity to lead. It’s an opportunity to leverage your leadership platform to accomplish collectively in a moment something that might have taken weeks or months to accomplish individually.

Next time you speak, hopefully, you will see it as an opportunity to increase your leadership visibility, to create organisational clarity and to build your professional credibility.

Shane Michael Hatton can be contacted on 0423 024 082 or by email at shane@shanemhatton.com or via the website at www.shanemhatton.com

Material published in Governance Directions is copyright and may not be reproduced without permission. The views expressed therein are those of the author and not of Governance Institute of Australia. All views and opinions are provided as general commentary only and should not be relied upon in place of specific accounting, legal or other professional advice.

Acting for You, September 2019

Next article