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The 7 Deadly Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication


Upon completing a recent project I took my client to lunch to thank him for his business. We reminisced about how we first met at my End Procrastination NOW! Workshop and how he realized at that time he was tired of tolerating things in his business.

Among the problems with which he was becoming increasingly frustrated were senior team members and frontline employees who…

  • Were not taking responsibility for their jobs
  • Needed constant prodding to get things done
  • Were not responsive to client requests
  • Did not return phone messages
  • Were throwing their fellow employees “under the bus”
  • Were having shouting matches in the office and on project sites
  • Using profanity when communicating with co-workers, clients and vendors
  • Procrastinated on following through on business opportunities
  • Were showing up late or leaving early with no explanation
  • Had negative attitudes
  • Complained about customers and co-workers
  • Were “disappearing” during the day

I began my project searching for the real underlying cause of these issues by:

  • interviewing the entire staff of 25
  • holding a series of focus groups
  • observing interactions and conversations between the business owner and his people.

What I learned in just two short weeks could fill a book.

My new client was violating virtually every leadership communication mistake. To simplify the project moving forward I categorized them into what I now call “The 7 Deadly Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication:”

  • Communication Sin #1: Lack of Specificity
    This causes people on the receiving end of a communication to have to mind-read or guess as to what is being requested of them. Details are left out or are at best, vague. The recipient, for many reasons, fails to ask follow up questions to get specifics and have to figure it out on their own.
  • Communication Sin #2: Lack of Focus on Desirable Behaviors
    People are great at saying what they don’t want or what they don’t want others to do, but have challenges identifying the behaviors they want instead. Where your focus goes, grows. As such, people are getting more of what they don’t want than ever before because they continue to focus on it.
  • Communication Sin #3: Lack of Directness
    This is where people go behind the backs of co-workers, peers, bosses and subordinates with water cooler gossip. Another example is the leader who tries to fix a problem that should be addressed to one person but calls a team meeting offering a blanket directive. A third is when co-workers tell managers the mistakes their co-workers make, hoping to look good at someone else’s expense.
  • Communication Sin #4: Lack of Immediacy
    This is procrastination. This is when communication is avoided because the conversations are difficult and leaders don’t know how to approach the offending party, so they choose not to.
  • Communication Sin #5: Lack of Appropriate Tone
    Ever had someone in a professional setting raise their voice at you in a condescending or threatening manner? How about responding in a sarcastic tone? These are just two of the ways inappropriate tone ruin relationships and trust in company cultures.
  • Communication Sin #6: Lack of Focused Attention
    In this day of technology and multi-tasking too many office conversations occur while one person is checking/responding to e-mails, or talking to us while they are on hold waiting for someone they will more likely deem more important than us once they come on the phone. This fosters disrespect and low trust in organizations.
  • Communication Sin #7: Lack of Respectful Rebuttals
    This may be the most common and subconscious of all seven leadership communication sins. It’s the conversations when someone agrees with you, or provides you with positive feedback in one breath, only to be followed by “but.” After the “but” comes the other shoe and you end up feeling misled and disappointed.

These behaviors caused significant damage to my client’s 25-year-old, $15 million business with 25 employees over the past ten years. My client estimated that allowing these communication issues to build up over ten years had cost him about $5 million.

That’s real money for some people.

If you are making these same leadership communication mistakes I invite you to go to and get my free special report The 7 Deadly Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication where I will show you how to fix these sins, communicate like a champion and begin building a championship organization.


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