Email ping pong.

Waiting on a decision … only to find the decision maker hasn’t even been briefed about the request or asked.

Assuming the team are hard at it on project X, when they are actually breaking their necks to finish project Y.

Do any of these, or something similar, resonate with you?

As a middle manager, during drawn out and fairly ineffective weekly supervision sessions with my boss, I’d be sitting on one side of the table and have thrown at me:

  • task after task; 
  • questioning of where I was up to with X, Y, Z and A, B and C
  • accusatorial tones of why hadn’t I worked on J, K and L, and then
  • listen to how hard her own role was and how swamped she was with her work.

Being on the receiving end of endless task allocation and inquisition was frustrating for both my boss and for me. I know she felt like I wasn’t making progress and I definitely felt like I wasn’t make progress at any decent pace.

I appreciated that my boss, all bosses, you in your team leadership, need to check in on where your people are up to, what progress they are making. I never had a problem with that. What pushed my button was HOW it was done!

I left most supervision sessions unsure of what was the most important thing to work on; that e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g was critical, and given the conversation usually shifted very quickly from what I should be doing to how hard she was having it, I rarely felt as though I could speak up or ask clarification. On the odd occasion I did ask, it was often turned back onto me to work that out, despite my asking for help, or everything was a priority.

It was an invaluable leadership communication lesson. What I needed from my boss was more listening to the current status quo, helping/coaching me to prioritise, and to be more explicit with her expectations.

I also needed to tap into a bit more empathy. While I didn’t say anything, I was certainly unhappy and frustrated. What I needed to do more of was pay attention to what was going on for my boss. I needed to realise that she was out of her own depth and that concern, stress and fear was spilling out in her leadership of her team.

Over the years, from my own leadership experience and working with Middle Managers the more effort put into improving interpersonal communication skills, the more effective middle managers will be with their leadership communication. Here are five tips for exceptional leadership communication.

Number 1


The world of work has a filter of speed layered over everything. The reality is that most workplaces have the capacity to slow down, even slightly, to allow for greater consideration.

Unless you work in a hospital emergancy ward, I will always encourage managers and leaders to slow down, even slightly, to gift the space and pace to think even more clearly, to consider alternative ideas and views, to research a little deeper, to reflect. This will contribute to better decision making, and with better decision making comes increased confidence and courage.

Be the leader who is known for greater consideration of issues and opportunities, rather than a rash rogue.

Number 2


Back up what you are saying with the relevant facts and examples so those who you are communicating with can make greater sense of what you’re communicating.

Make your messages credible with consistency in your approach: be sure to communicate with integrity.

Be a credible communicator by not engaging in gossip, not starting gossip; actively close down gossip, encouraging those who are talking about others to do so when the people/person are present so they can be part of the conversation rather than the topic of conversation.

Number 3


Vague words, phrases, directions and suggestions lead to vague results.

Soon is too vague if you actually want something this week 

This week is too vague if you actually want something by 5pm Thursday.

Don’t confuse direct and rude: asking for something with specificity and in concrete terms and language, and of course, with good manners, helps others to meet your expectations. How each person interprets ‘soon’ for example will differ to how you define it.

Number 4


Have you ever listened to someone and felt dizzy? They jump from one idea or piece of information to something unrelated, then back to the original topic, then they add a completely different piece of information into the mix?!?!?

Waffling, jumping all over the place, mixing messages leads to confusion and either self-interpretation or stagnation of work. 

Stick to sharing what your people need to know about the one topic and consider the logical sequence in sharing the information. If there’s multiple topics, deal with one at a time or be explicit about what topics you’re talking about so people don’t get lost. Help your people come on the journey with you by being coherent.

Number 5


Does the person at the bottom of the organisational chart get the same respectful communication from you as the Chairperson of the Board?

Be courteous in all your communication. Even when something has gone wrong and needs immediate corrective action, take a deep breathe and remember that courtesy and care will help the people you’re communicating with to stay engaged in the conversation and explore resolutions, and be more willing to act to amend what’s gone wrong.

Even when you’re frustrated, angry, upset you can still be courteous. It takes self-awareness through emotional identification and regulation to be able to handle the tough conversations with courtesy.

There are no doubt many more C’s you can think of for exceptional leadership communication. These five are a good start. 

Why didn’t I have CORRECT as one of the five, surely it’s that’s essential.

It really is important to be as correct in your communication as you possibly can. This is a given, however, you know that change is one of the things you can guarantee will happen when you least expect it. Goal Setting expert and speaker friend of mine, Keith Abraham says that just when you set a goal the universe will test it and you! At work, the goal posts shift often and so this impacts the information you share: what was correct yesterday may be completely wrong tomorrow because situations change, decisions change, rules change.

When running leadership communication workshops with managers, we discuss how to handle being as correct as possible when everything constantly changes:

  1. Be explicit about how clear and correct the information is at that point in time and that things may change.
  2. Be confident in your own ability to handle the changes that happen, that you have the ability to deal with what gets thrown at you, and you can communicate the new correct information as clearly and concretely as possible.
  3. Give context: discuss the change decision and not just the new information. This helps people understand why the change has happened.


Do you have any other C’s of leadership communication that you lead by? 

The aim of these C’s is to help you amplify your credibility, confidence, engagement and productivity.