In a much-visited video clip on Google, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, can be seen bouncing around the stage to dance music, screaming, whooping and exhorting his hyped-up audience to “COME AARN, GED UP”. He then pauses, panting, before shouting at the top of his voice: “I HAVE FOUR WORDS FOR YOU: I – LOVE – THIS – COMPANY---- YEAHHHS!”
Mr Ballmer evidently took to heart – and to the extreme – that cliché of leadership that you can never communicate enough with your employees. Chief executives routinely pay homage to communication and boast about the ways they “reach out” to their people – through “town hall” meetings, site visits, newsletters, open doors and, now, blogs.
Those on the receiving end, however, are often left feeling bemused or, worse, cheated. What employees really want, according to a new survey, are straight-talkers who keep them up to date with bad, as well as good, news. They also want leaders who stay true to themselves instead of putting on a performance or preaching through PowerPoint.
The 1,000 employees surveyed regard communicating with staff as a more important leadership quality than having a clear vision for the company. Only 40 per cent say their boss communicates effectively.
The report, “Straight Talking”, by CHA, a workplace communications consultancy, says the findings suggest four categories of communicators. The “considerate” ones talk directly to staff rather than through managers or the media, invite feedback and value people’s views. About a third of employees have bosses like this – considerate, sincere and motivating.
On the other hand, a third say their bosses fail to provide enough information about plans, communicate too late or not at all and talk at them rather than having a conversation.
These “controlling” communicators also tend to underestimate the intelligence of their workers and how far they can trust them. They are keener to talk to industry peers than to their staff, according to the survey by Explorandum, a market research company.
Many respondents complain of the lack of face-to-face contact with their leaders. “Nobody at floor level ever gets asked their opinion, even though they are the ones dealing directly with the customers and the ones with the real experience of what people need,” says one employee.
Another says that, if she was in charge, she would “try to remember who works for me, and why, and their names; show some interest in what they have to say and actually try to act on it; be less aloof and proud and feel free to admit when I am wrong or need help”.
上述调查发现的另外两种沟通风格，分别是“魅力型”和“低调型”。前一种以李察•布莱信爵士(Sir Richard Branson)为代表。后一种领导者通常受人敬仰，但由于过分矜持，使得人们一直处于猜测和好奇状态中。耐克公司(Nike)董事长菲尔•耐特(Phil Knight)和英格兰国家足球队前任主教练斯文-格兰•埃里克森(Sven-Göran Eriksson)都被划归这类风格。一些领导者符合的风格不仅限于一类——例如杰克•韦尔奇(Jack Welch)，可以同时归入控制型和魅力型。
Two other communication styles emerge from the survey: the “charismatic”, exemplified by Sir Richard Branson, and the “understated”, where the leader is often admired but so reserved that he or she leaves people guessing and wanting more. Phil Knight, chairman of Nike, and Sven-Göran Eriksson, the former England manager, are cited as cases in point. Some leaders fit more than one category – Jack Welch, for example, could be categorised both as controlling and charismatic.
不擅于沟通的领导者能够彻底改变吗？抑或，他们的这种特征已深植于个性之中？2000年被迫下台的英国航空(British Airways)前首席执行官鲍勃•艾林(Bob Ayling)非常不受人欢迎，他给人留下的印象，是一个无法与员工沟通、冷漠而粗暴的领导者。
Can bad communicators change fundamentally, or is it all rooted in personality? Bob Ayling, the unpopular British Airways chief executive ousted in 2000, came across as a distant and abrasive leader unable to connect with his employees.
斯坦福大学商学院(Stanford’s Graduate School of Business)组织学习教授杰弗里•普费弗(Jeffrey Pfeffer)表示：“领导者可以学习讲真话，承认他们不知道的东西，承认错误。他们还可以学习降低控制欲。跟生活中的某些领域中一样，人们希望在工作中做出决策，并拥有一些控制力和责任。”
“Leaders can learn to tell the truth, to admit what they don’t know and to admit mistakes,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organisational learning at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. “They can also learn to be less controlling. People want to make decisions at work and have some control and responsibility, just as they do in other spheres of their lives.”
普费弗教授在他即将出版的一本新书中列举了一个例子。这本书名为《他们在想什么？关于管理的不寻常智慧》(What Were They Thinking? Unconventional Wisdom About Management)，明年将由哈佛商学院出版社(Harvard Business School Press)出版。
Prof Pfeffer gives an example in a forthcoming book, What Were They Thinking? Unconventional Wisdom About Management, to be published next year by Harvard Business School Press.
“When Anne Mulcahy became CEO of Xerox in 2001, after just five months on the job she told Wall Street the company’s business moel was flawed,” he writes. Then she explained to employees, directly and honestly, the challenges they faced, the first step in creating a remarkable turnaround at Xerox. That honesty, although possibly unexpected, told employees the person in charge actually knew and was willing to talk about the truth and had a plan for making things better.”
最重要的因素是真诚。史蒂夫•巴尔默在舞台上的表演令人惊愕，但The Company Agency的合伙人达文•布里格斯(Darren Briggs)表示，这确实代表了巴尔默的风格。The Company Agency向企业领袖提供沟通建议。
What matters most is authenticity. Steve Ballmer’s stage performance was jaw-dropping. But it represented the way he is, says Darren Briggs, a partner at The Company Agency, which advises corporate leaders on communications.
Mr Briggs, who worked at Microsoft 12 years ago, says Mr Ballmer had a reputation for being loud, direct and not particularly good at listening – the opposite of Bill Gates. “But people accept that behaviour because that’s what he’s like. It’s not a show he’s putting on. If he’d been calmer [on the stage] and discussed things, people would have said: ‘What happened to Steve Ballmer?’”