Great companies have great leaders who are great communicators. If you follow the rise and fall of successful companies, the ones that consistently stay on top are the ones with exceptional leaders, people who can inspire others with the story of their innovation. Remember when Steve Jobs pulled the MacBook Air out of an office envelope? That gesture was worth a thousand words, and today Apple’s market value is at $600bn thanks in part to the fact that Steve Jobs was one of the most extraordinary communicators in the corporate world.
Or take the story of shwopping. Marc Bolland, CEO of Marks and Spencers, was just awarded the EACD Communication Award 2012 for his brilliant campaign introducing the notion of recycling old clothes when buying new ones, a move that will revolutionize the way we shop for decades to come.
Yet in spite of such compelling examples, most managers and executives still fail to understand that communication is a key element of success. In a recent survey of 2200 communication professionals throughout Europe, 84% state that top management lacks understanding of communications, and 75% think it is difficult to prove the impact of communications on business goals.
The survey, part of the European Communication Monitor 2012, also identified key trends in communication for the upcoming years. One trend is a clear move away from the operational practice of producing and disseminating communication materials to a new, strategic management function which includes responsibility for educating and training management to communicate better, and thereby become better leaders.
Sanjay Poonen, SAP Corporate Officer, President of Solutions and Head of Mobile Division, is a firm believer that leaders should teach leaders. “SAP’s market share has risen consistently over the years thanks to visionary leadership and strong execution. Now it’s up to us to train the next generation. I don’t relegate my leadership sessions to trainers, but run them myself. That means I have to keep learning because every leader should be a lifelong teacher and student, ” says Sanjay, referring to the teachable point of view, a concept refined by Noel Tichy that helps leaders teach leadership by linking their personal experience to organizational goals.
While many companies like SAP are embedding the concept that leaders should teach leaders into their leadership programs, what are they doing to help managers communciate better?
“People think in stories, so I find storytelling to be one of the best teaching tools,” says Sanjay. “We’re developing storytelling workshops to help people articulate the value of our solutions. I also like whiteboarding, which helps me tell the story of SAP’s entire portfolio in 9 minutes!”
Can you pull your innovation story out of an office envelope or put it on a whiteboard? If not, whether you’re in the business of developing products, sales strategies or leadership skills, you may want to involve your communication expert from the get go. By helping you set the direction and destination of your enterprise, good communications can indeed have an impact on your business! You’ll be a better leader, and your company will be all the greater.