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Leadership pitfall: Why it is critical not to under communicate

As a leader you’re constantly being scrutinized, and a quick weekly email can help ensure you’re communicating what you intend

Article updated July 9, 2018

By Jay Fitch

I was listening to the radio the other day when Sting’s 1983 song “Every Breath you Take” came on. I’d always thought of it as a tale of a loser stalker, but this time the lyrics resonated with me in a different way.

If you remove the bit of romance introduced in the refrain, it demonstrates a basic principle of good communication, but one that’s easy to forget: When you’re a leader, everyone is bit of a stalker.

“Every move you make … Every vow you break … Every smile you fake … Every claim you stake … I’ll be watching you.”

It’s not easy being a leader, knowing your every move is being scrutinized for hidden meaning. You can say all the right things and still blow it, because you’re being watched.

Your stance, your eye contact, your folded arms, how you’re sitting in the chair, and where the conversation is taking place (your office, your employee’s office, across a desk or side by side) can transmit something entirely different than what you intended.

The good news is that if your leadership comes from a place that is genuine and personal, people will give you the benefit of the doubt when you occasionally send the wrong message.

Avoid under communicating

Leaders often fail in their communication because they fall into a habit of under communicating, that is, not realizing the need to actively communicate formally and informally, more so than they ever realized.

Just because you sent out one email, doesn’t mean everyone in your organization “gets it.” And if you don’t address an issue, the troops will make up for it by filling in the gaps, often at conflict with the message you really meant to send.

Being a good communicator is an essential part of leadership and it doesn’t mean giving good speeches. You know you’re doing well when everyone on your team understands your agency’s vision, values, and what is expected of them.

This is easier said than done. I know some EMS agency CEOs and fire chiefs who send out a message every week to everyone in the organization, come rain or shine. For some reason it’s usually on a Friday.

The best ones are not long tomes about policy. They’re short, simple reminders of mission and values, in the form of stories about the people who work there.

If you decide try this, know you’re committed to whatever frequency you promise. Miss one and, well, that sends a message too.

For more than three decades, the Fitch & Associates team of consultants has provided customized solutions to the complex challenges faced by public safety organizations of all types and sizes. From system design and competitive procurements to technology upgrades and comprehensive consulting services, Fitch & Associates helps communities ensure their emergency services are both effective and sustainable. For ideas to help your agency improve performance in the face of rising costs, call 888-431-2600 or visit