Expert Advice of the Month: A good boss is a good communicator. But it’s a two-way street


Pierre Battah is an award-winning author and workplace leadership specialist. He is a long-time workplace columnist for CBC/Radio-Canada, a TEDx presenter, a former senior manager in HR, and was previously an associate professor in management. He holds an MBA and several professional designations. He is the new executive-in-residence and moderator at the Wallace McCain Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and he recently received Rotary International’s highest distinction, the Paul Harris Award for outstanding contribution to the community. Battah’s book, Humanity at Work, Leading for Better Relationships and Results, won gold at the U.S. Nautilus Book Awards in 2020—and is a great read. 

When the Atlantic Building Supply Dealers Association reprised its annual HR Conference in November, bringing Pierre Battah back to the stage was a no-brainer. Battah had given a full workshop at the first ABSDA HR Conference in 2022 and it was nothing short of a goldmine of valuable information and insights.

This year’s presentation was just as engaging. Battah gave each table of delegates a set of tasks and challenges through the morning. At the heart of his talk was the need for communication. Not full-on all the time, but tailored to the situation. And that includes communication that addresses conflict within the team, something too many leaders are reluctant to face.

“We can lose people if we’re not prepared to have the difficult conversations,” Battah said. These tough conversations help get to the heart of which issues are divisive for a team. “A lot of what we do as managers is trying to get everyone on the same page.”

Those questions, he says, should be part of your communication style right from the start, including interviews during the hiring process. When hiring, be up front about the opportunities and the challenges that can be expected in the job and with your company. But be clear as well about the opportunities that will help the candidate’s career when she joins your company.

But good communication is a two-way street. That’s why Battah offers this bit of hiring advice: “Give 10 reasons why they’ll want to work for you. Then ask the candidate to provide 10 reasons why they want to work for you, as well.” Next, he says, wait for the answer. Let the candidate reply in their own way.

“We have to ask questions. Then we have to shut up. People need to be heard and listened to.”