My Boss is a Lousy Communicator

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Bev,

The leader of our advisory firm, let’s call him “Mark,” is a smart guy, a CFA with many years of experience in our business. But he’s a poor communicator. He will often have these ideas he wants to implement, gets all excited about them, and assigns one of us to work on something. Then he forgets about the initiative and moves on to something else. Or, conversely he will ask weeks later about progress and act like what he has assigned is the most important thing we should be doing.

The other people on our team (the nine of us most significantly impacted by his behavior) get so frustrated because we’re either wasting time or in trouble because we didn’t do something he expected we would do. Our operations manager, who has been with him for 17 years, tells him, “We’re not mind readers!” But it doesn’t make a difference. He keeps doing this on a regular basis. It is more extreme now that we are virtual, because we can’t get together in our conference room and pin him down on specifics or try and get him to share more details.

Is there a way to help someone understand they are a poor communicator? Should we be more direct – I think our ops manager is clear, but he will laugh in response and maybe go into more detail at that moment. But the change doesn’t last.


Dear R.K.,

Have you tried organizing Mark’s thoughts for him? In other words, when he assigns something, put it into writing – what’s required, when it might be due, who is going to work on it and what steps need to be taken to get it done. Mark might be a “shiny penny” leader, meaning that he is high-spirited, high-energy and has new ideas regularly, but moves to the next thing very quickly. This is a common behavioral style for many entrepreneurial leaders. They have an idea, but something else attracts their attention so that idea dies or lays dormant until they turn their attention to it again.