In today’s world, where technology provides countless ways to communicate, many of us have forgotten how to do it effectively. And that’s a big problem for leaders.

Gallup estimates that companies lose $300 billion each year in productivity alone. Imagine how that would change if more employees better understood what they’re doing, and more importantly, why they’re doing it.

Case in point: When I started having back pain last year, Barb, one of the trainers at my gym, insisted that I visit her acupuncturist. I’m not terribly fond of needles, but I liked the pain even less.

On my first (and only) visit, Dr. Kim entered my exam room and asked, “What’s the problem?”

“My lower back,” I said. “It hurts so much.”

He looked me over, poked at my back, and said, “Take your pants down, lay on the table, and face the wall.” Then, he walked out of the room.

Lowering my pants, I thought, “Barb better not be messing with me!”

Dr. Kim came back in, shoved his fingers right into that spot on my lower back, and said, “Weeeeaaaakkk muscles.” He took what felt like a small gun and shot needles into my skin in a circular pattern. He put suction cups over the circles … and left again.

That’s when I realized I’d stop breathing. I called for my friend, Lynette, whom I had dragged with me for moral support. She entered the room, looked at me silently for a moment, and said, “Well, that’s interesting.”

“What’s interesting?!” I demanded.

“That’s just interesting,” she repeated. I found out later that she was really thinking, “OMG!! What did he do to her?!” But she knew that reaction wouldn’t help.

“I’m afraid to move,” I told her.

“Yeah,” she said. “You really shouldn’t.”

A few minutes later, Dr. Kim reappeared, removed the suction cups, and said, “Weak muscle. No pork, no chicken. See you tomorrow.”

Lynette asked, “Why no pork or chicken?”

“Weeeaaaakkkk muscle,” he repeated. “See you tomorrow.”

On our way to the car, Lynette asked about my back. “My back?!” I said. “It’s my heart I’m concerned about!”

I guess acupuncture wasn’t what I needed. Or maybe it was… with better communication. Perhaps the needles would have worked if I not been so tense. If Dr. Kim had explained what he was doing and why, I might have stuck with it and seen the results.

I didn’t go back to Dr. Kim for the same reasons most talented professionals leave companies. They don’t understand where their organizations are going or how to develop their careers while contributing to their employers’ missions. In other words, they don’t have good leaders who consistently communicate their vision. So, they either underperform or quit.

A retired executive vice president of a major technology company recently said to me, “Lack of understanding around roles is the number one reason teams fail. People in leadership often make demands without even understanding why, or without communicating it. Egos get big at that level and communication – or leadership – stops. Instead, they start looking for ways to cover their butts when morale drops.”  

Powerful leaders clarify their visions, tap into their passions and consistently communicate about where their teams/organizations are headed. Can you imagine a team of elite football players playing without an end zone? Of course not! Communicate your vision, strategies, and end-goal consistently and help each player understand how their contributions matter. Powerful leadership really is that simple.

Rock on,

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes