Good leaders are good communicators. There’s no way out of it. Happy talk is their way of casting vision but not accomplishing much. One of the primary functions of a leader is to sell a vision, a destination, or a future to his or her followers. You can’t do that without good communication skills. But a good communicator is not necessarily a good leader. While your oratory skills might get you elected to a prestigious position, it will not keep you there long. I have been in so many meetings led by a good communicator who happens to be a poor leader. Most of goes on in these settings I call “happy talk”: the ability to talk about ideas, projects and initiatives that will never materialize. Chances are, next time the same people convene, some, if not all, of the same subject matter will come back up for discussion again. Happy talk will ensue but nothing will get accomplished afterward. Here’s sure signs you’re sitting through a happy talk session:
The leader’s ideas are grandiose but not rooted in reality. That usually happens when the leader’s idea so far outside the current scope of work and experience that it cannot be accomplished with the available resources. People will listen mostly because they’re getting paid to be at the meeting. You know you’re in the middle of a grandiose speech when you’re thinking “that will never happen.”
There is little or no conviction. The moment someone else in the room question the idea, the leader drops the discussion and moves on to another subject or topic. The leader is not comfortable with conflict and instead of working through the issue, it’s easy to just drop it altogether. Doers need to see how all the dots connect, before they can jump in and embrace a new idea. After all none of us want to get stuck with a project we cannot figure out how to implement. Weak leaders confuse the need for clarity with paralyzing conflict.
There are no implementation goals or time lines. I’ve been in meetings where a new idea is presented by a leader but after hours of “vision casting” we walk out of the room without specific goals, dates and tasks. In my experience, if you don’t have a due date a set of goals and a way to measure a win, chances are nothing will be done until the next time you gather again for another round of happy talk.
What’s your experience with happy talk?