Leadership Communication

December 3, 2013

“We’ve got the weather,” the man said. And for years, my wife and I have wondered what he meant.

We had been walking in Dublin, Ireland and paused to photograph the huge wooden doors of an aging church building, when an elderly man on the sidewalk greeted us with those few words.

Did he mean the weather was bad because it was raining? Or, as we think more likely, was he saying the weather was good because it was a mild day with a gentle breeze and only a light rain?

My wife and I still recall that day in Dublin, that brief encounter, whenever we hear people make statements that could be interpreted in exactly opposite ways.

Speakers often say one thing and mean another, sometimes intentionally, sometimes innocently. Listeners often misinterpret what was stated because they had something different on their minds or expected something different to be said.

All of this and more adds to the difficulty of communicating effectively, whether between two people or within a team or organization.

Leadership communication attempts to minimize these misunderstandings; and an effective tactic for doing so is to have listeners restate what they believe they heard the leader say.

Communicating messages clearly and repetitiously is a leadership essential; but so is providing opportunities for others to repeat those messages. This leads not only to more precise communication, but also to more pervasive and powerful messages.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.