NU Online News Service, May 24, 12:30 p.m. EDT

PALM DESERT, CALIF.–A leader’s ability to communicate effectively means more than just giving instructions; it also means inspiring and gaining commitment from others, and there are steps that can lead to that goal, a business professor told managing agents here.

“The problem with communication is the assumption that it has been accomplished, when in the end we find out it has not been accomplished at all,” said Beverly Y. Langford, professor and director of Business Communications Programs at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business.

In business, she noted, it is important that an organization’s leader get beyond providing information and direction. Communication is an act of gaining understanding and commitment from individuals, in order to learn from others and build an exceptional organization, Ms. Langford explained.

Her observations were given at an education session of the American Association of Managing General Agents’ Under Forty Organization (UFO), held here on the opening day of the AAMGA’s annual meeting.

The afternoon-long seminar, titled “Communicate as a Trusted Leader,” is the third in a series of four leadership seminars the UFO has offered its members throughout the year.

Ms. Langford, also president of LMA Communication, a consulting firm in Atlanta, discussed a series of issues or assumptions that leaders have, with what she termed in some cases as “CEO disease.” This is where the leader is given information it is believed he or she wants to hear–rather than the kind of information that could benefit the organization–because of a belief that the leader is not open to objective opinions.

Much of that failure has to do with a leader’s perception that when he or she makes an announcement, that announcement will lead to the desired changes within the organization.

Rather, Ms. Langford explained, the process is more complex than that and requires a certain commitment in thought and process to gain the organization’s people-commitment to producing better results.

The aim, she explained, is “how to get from acceptable results to exceptional results.”

Commitment cannot be demanded from anyone, she said, and leadership is about inspiring commitment. The lesson of effective communication is that “more than an inspirational speech” is required, she added.

Ms. Langford outlined a process for leaders to consider how their choice of language influences the impression they impart to others. Just as importantly, however, they also need to be aware of how their body language and interaction can impact the message they are trying to communicate.

One trap executives need to avoid is the belief that an idea is so great that they can’t walk away from it. “Don’t take yourself and your ideas so seriously,” she advised.

Successful communication also means being able to take bad news, and the inability to do so is another form of “CEO disease,” she explained.

A leader’s inability to accept bad news will create an environment where employees are reluctant to give an honest opinion about a failure and not offer the kind of ideas that will help an organization succeed.

To build an environment that produces an exceptional organization, a leader should build on giving positive feedback to employees and avoid building a toxic environment where individuals only hear negativity.

Another recommendation she made was for executives to get away from using e-mails for all communications. There are times, she said, especially for very important or negative matters, where it’s best to pick up the phone and talk to someone, or have a face-to-face discussion in order to connect with individuals.

“Nothing really replaces sitting down and talking to people,” Ms. Langford said.