We will have published nearly 470 posts on SmartBlog on Leadership by the end of 2013. It sounds like (and is!) a lot, but at an average of just fewer than two posts per business day, the frequency represents our aim of posting only what is high quality and relevant for time-strapped professionals.
How do we know if we’ve hit the mark? It’s not always so simple. A good deal of our traffic comes from our SmartBrief newsletters (chief among them SmartBrief on Leadership) and social media. If I write a boring headline on our e-newsletter summary, I might kill traffic to a great blog post, to give just one variable.
But, considering those limitations. here are this year’s top Leadership posts by pageviews. You’ll probably notice a pattern:
- “10 employee conversations that managers hate to have” — Dan McCarthy, June 27.
- “Who’s holding you hostage? Mastering difficult conversations, part 1: Conversations with difficult people” — Dr. Mark Goulston, Aug. 29.
- “Simple steps to successful presentations” — Shannon Alter, May 10.
- “How can you improve your business presentations?” — Beverly Flaxington, Jan. 15.
- “Leadership development ‘Moneyball'” — Dan McCarthy, July 25.
- “12 ways to keep your employees motivated, engaged and unified” — Artie Nathan, April 18, 2011.*
- “Andrew Sobel, on the power of asking questions” — Brooke Howell, Feb. 5.
- “Shape 2014 with an effective year-end employee message” — Linda Beheler, Dec. 2.
- “9 ways to empower employees to be leaders” — Heather R. Huhman, June 7.
- “Do I dare say something? How to be assertive at work” — Joel Garfinkle, March 18.
You probably see the pattern — people realize they need help communicating at work, building trust and relationships. Or, at least, they are willing to read about the problem. This list alone shows that difficult conversations of all kinds are worrisome, and that anything involving talking with direct reports is a work in progress. The next 10 or 15 most-read posts follow these patterns, for what it’s worth.
This eagerness to communicate better has a downside. Do most of us have any idea how to relate to other human beings when business interjects? But the upside, what I hope is the bigger truth, is an increased desire and recognition, at all levels of business, of the importance of connecting with others and the benefits of doing better by them.
This blog publishes inordinately about the necessity of strong, forthright communication in business, whether to develop better employees, deliver bad news, redirect and execute strategy or develop the next big idea. We focus on better communication — on basic humanity, really — because continuing education is so needed. Communicating and listening well is not intuitive, it can be fraught with danger and, most importantly, is never perfected.
How do we communicate better?
To start, ditch the cloud-high judgments and platitudes, don’t expect rules and systems to be effective without sensible, adaptive and thoughtful application, and simultaneously set high expectations while creating safe spaces to make the many well-meaning mistakes that will result. Not every act of humanity has a corresponding profit margin, but I’ll take the bet that enough such acts will mean something over time.
We’ll keep trying to further this mission in 2014 and, vitally, to help leaders be better.
*Artie Nathan’s post, as you’ll notice, is more than 2.5 years old. The continued popularity of the post is testifies not only to Google search rankings but also to the sturdiness of Nathan’s advice.