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BW Businessworld

Brownies From Brown Bags

More than employees or team members, this has necessitated a tremendous push on the part of leaders to connect, support and drive.

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Communication is a two-way street. It allows people to share and to be shared with. Most important is the communication that the leader in an organization has with his or her people. Whether formal or informal, it establishes the tone of the organization- it’s culture, its aspirations and its mindset.

Throughout the tenure of a leader, the importance of communication remains. From the time a leader joins the organization (even if not from outside), to the time he or she works to drive the organization to achieve its objectives, the strength of communication as a tool cannot be espoused enough.

This especially so during times like we have faced in the last one year, when the only way one could communicate was by making an effort to do so. Our communications became deliberate, and our outreach essential. More and more people felt the need for it, since the natural ways in which we reached out no longer were applicable whether in terms of greeting colleagues you met on your way to the coffee machine or catching up over lunch, or simply having that side conversation before or after the meeting whilst moving onto the next discussion.

More than employees or team members, this has necessitated a tremendous push on the part of leaders to connect, support and drive. In fact, in several cases, leaders have found it easier to get into the brick and mortar office, despite the risks that the pandemic poses on their health, simply because, being there (physically) seems to provide that much needed relief as one needs to carry a reduced onus of being seen and making a presence felt.

Especially for a new leader in the organization, making a transition during a pandemic has been even more challenging. One has no welcome addresses that one is given, and neither can one share one’s dreams and aspirations with rooms full of people, travelling across locations, meeting, connecting, sharing- being known and knowing.

Yes, the onus of making yourself known to a new organization as well as knowing them, falls on the leader, pandemic or no pandemic, tenured or otherwise. Life was easier for one to make a transition, when the constraints of travel and safety did not come in the way of “being out there” where you needed to be, with those who “you needed to be with”. Employees, customers, suppliers, stakeholders, all expect the leader to reach out to them- to meet, to know and yes, to be known.

This especially when there is a long hiatus of novelty from a leadership standpoint, with jaded styles and processes being followed more as a matter of legacy rather than as a need of the hour. Whether it’s the way of thinking or whether it’s the strategy or objectives that one needs to drive, as a leader coming into an organization, it is important that one first and foremost makes oneself known to people.

Knowing a leader does not simply mean, having a detailed curriculum vitae. It is much more than that. Knowing their values, what drives them, what are their dreams, their aspirations, and above all- their reason for being where they are and there reasons for being where they have been. It provides a perspective to the organization of what it is they can expect. Some leaders share, while others keep employees guessing, choosing to make them aware of what is in store, as they work together. Nothing wrong with the latter approach, except, it takes a lot of guessing for people, utilizing time and energy as they figure out what or whom they are working with.

Authenticity is an oft-talked about virtue of leadership. But not just for leaders, it is critical for any employee in the organization. The more a leader shares about himself or herself, the higher the likelihood that it encourages the rest of the organization to follow the path, thus opening up lines of communication otherwise jammed with perceptions and assumptions. This is the second most important aspect of a new leader’s communication- to ensure that people are able to reach out to them once the ice is broken. While connecting in large groups is definitely more efficient from utilizing time and energy, it is the small groups that make the maximum impact when one genuinely wants to know, to connect at a deeper and not just a superficial plane.

Brown bag sessions are considered the most effective in ensuring free flowing conversations. Of course, as the brown bag moved online, its for the leader to initiate and engage in the conversation. Humans as we are, we have it in us to adapt, and so we move seamlessly, from carrying our “brown paper bag” lunches to the cafeteria to making ourselves comfortable in our bedrooms cum offices, in the middle of a bustling household, just so that we can connect with the one who will help us make a difference or so we believe.

However, not many leaders understand, or perhaps having understood, refuse to acknowledge, the  efficacy and strength of making the connect early on. It is perhaps why leadership remains that elusive category one cannot reach, or even if one reaches, one cannot connect with- living more in awe than inspiration. Perceptions, assumptions, aura- all surrounding leaders- are more a function of their own lack of initiative in making themselves known (or pushing it further) in having the interest in knowing those that they lead.

New or old, leaders need to connect- with those they are supported by- in achieving what it is they have signed up for. Often, in the rigmarole of managing our stakeholders, and doing what is “perceived” as the role of a leader, one misses out on that which is the most critical- being one with those you lead. Those that one leads are the reason one has the title of a leader, and starting and staying connected with them, the main driving force that makes the difference between those that succeed and those that “also ran”.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Bhavana Bindra

A graduate of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore, Bhavana joined the corporate world starting with Consulting at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), followed by almost 13 years in the Manufacturing & Engineering sector with the US MNC Cummins India Limited. Setting up and running businesses with expertise in the areas of leadership, strategic thinking, sales and marketing, Bhavana believes learning is continuous and experiments worth the time spent. This explains explaining her stint at a start-up in the Data analytics space, as well as her last role in the Chemicals industry as the Managing Director of a Dutch company in India.

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