Dan Rosensweig, in a recent New York Times interview with Adam Bryant, says he is influenced by entrepreneurs—company founders like Jerry Yang and David Filo of Yahoo—he has worked with who developed companies with cultures reflective of “energy, enthusiasm and unbridled passion for what’s possible.” As Dan explains, “founders simply ask what needs to be done and what’s the best way to do it.”
To this end Dan, president and C.E.O. of Chegg, tells of the importance of communication in his approach to leadership. Hiring the best people is not enough. You must also provide them with the space to exercise their capabilities. A large part of this is setting the direction that comes from communicating the strategic intent of the organization. Dan asserts “you have to really open people’s eyes to the bigger possibilities, so they think differently.” Just as importantly as communicating the strategic intent, you must also tell the story in a way that enables people to see the important contribution they can make. As Dan says, “I try very hard to be descriptive about how we want to define success and not necessarily prescriptive on telling them exactly how we want to do it—because, frankly, many of them are a lot smarter than me at what they do.”
Communication is not just about the words that are said, it is also about depth and focus of attention of the one communicating. That is, words are just the surface level part of communicating, leadership requires far more. It requires engaging with and listen to people—being fully present. As Dan explained, “I think the way to get employees all in is to listen to them.” For effective leadership superficiality won’t suffice; it requires genuine caring.
Communicate the strategic intent and then prepare to listen. Listening is critical because it communicates trust, which is the antecedent to cooperative and collaborative efforts.