Top-Down: Building a Better Organization through Effective Communication

By Van Nostran, Kendra | Communication World, March-April 2004 | Go to article overview
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Top-Down: Building a Better Organization through Effective Communication


Van Nostran, Kendra, Communication World


How many quarterly CEO updates or employee newsletters have you received that failed in their attempts to motivate you, let alone provide a vision of where your organization is headed and the important role you play in moving the company forward?

In their book "The Leader as Communicator," former Fleishman-Hillard Inc. executives Robert Mai and Alan Akerson note early on, "Employees seem to have more things to say and more questions to raise these days, but it's still the leader's responsibility to make the decisions and live by the consequences."

Yet even in the face of irrelevant internal communication and an increase in dialogue among employees, many businesses still view communication from leaders as having only a minor role in organizational strategy. Mai and Akerson contend that successful companies lead through effective top-down communication, and they have set out to offer leaders a resource for improving their organizations' communication, primarily by taking responsibility for it.

Mai and Akerson have divided their book into four parts: The Agenda for Leadership Communication, The Leader as Community Developer, The Leader as Navigator and The Leader as Renewal Champion.

Part one defines leadership communication and examines the ways in which it can affect an organization. "Above all, leadership communication entails nurturing and maintaining a workplace environment in which communication flows freely and quickly in all directions with minimal distortion or lag time," Mai and Akerson write. "The leader of an organization is automatically the designated chief communication officer and is accountable for all communication in the organization--not only his or her own, but that of the entire workplace community."

Subsequent sections offer step-by-step tactics and strategies to help leaders become more effective at organizational communication. Case studies are incorporated throughout the text.

A case study of AlliedSignal Aerospace (now Honeywell Aerospace) underscores a core component of effective leadership communication that is all too often overlooked--being a good listener.

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