888-368-0009 [email protected]

3 Communication Practices to Escape Productivity TAR

To avoid extinction like the dinosaurs, leaders must ensure productivity does not get stuck. Just like the dinosaurs of old, we too must avoid being stuck in modern tar-pits. To avoid getting your organization’s productivity stuck, leaders need to alter their communication practices.


Leaders need the soft skill of communication. Unclear or confusing communication causes frustration, both in the employee and the leader, increased aggression, reduced loyalty, and decreased productivity and work attendance. Similarly, researchers note that these are the same behaviors that populations tend to have before a political revolution. With better communication practices, organizations will realize increased leader loyalty, employee engagement, and higher productivity.


Specifically, leaders should engage in three distinct communication practices to not only avoid productivity tar but to yank their productivity out if it is already stuck. Therefore, to better remember the three practices, let’s tie them to the thing we want most to be away from, TAR.


T – Communicate a Clear Target

A – Communicate Accountability

R – Receive Rebuttals



To be productive, we need a target. Targets help us focus. While goal setting is a great start, communicating a clear and specific target encourages us the opportunity to hone our skills to hit the bullseye.


Unclear or vague corporate missions, like “Help bring about world peace,” are insufficient for employee and company growth. Consequently, leaders should help align the employee’s goals with those of the organization. Performance Coaching teaches leaders the most basic, yet often underused communication practices, asking questions and listening for answers. Coaching helps re-frame those personal goals as targets with clearly communicated milestones.


By asking questions, the coaching leader builds trust and learns the employee’s goals. After communicating the organizational goals, the leader can tie organizational expectations to individual goals and communicate a clear target to the employee. To start, you may want to ask some of the following questions:


  • What is your purpose for being here?
  • How does your purpose align with the organizations’ mission and goals?
  • What can I do to help you reach your purpose?


Without accountability, there is no responsibility. Many think the leader holds the follower accountable by the threat of termination. Sadly, this type of leadership only encourages the employee to do just enough work to avoid termination and sinks us further into productivity TAR.


To illustrate, in the popular Star Wars movie saga, we see none of Darth Vader’s employees achieve more than the minimum for fear of getting terminated! In contrast, the Jedi Master, Yoda, instilled personal accountability by communicating the simple phrase, “Do or do not. There is no try.” External accountability is not enough to get out of the tar.


Accountability must come from inside the individual. Therefore, leaders must engender a culture of individual internal accountability. The leader must ensure they have clearly communicated whose responsibility it is to track accountability by asking pointed questions that determine the importance of reaching the target and the metrics the employee will use to reach the target. If the leader does not communicate clear accountability, the employee is left to assume they hold no responsibility for the outcome. Once the leader has communicated to the employee, they are accountable to themselves. However, the leader may assist the employee in measuring that accountability through metrics.


Again, we can turn to some Performance Coaching powerful questions to encourage personal accountability. After you have defined the target using the earlier questions, follow up with some of the questions below:


  • How important to you is reaching your purpose/goal/target?
  • How will reaching this impact your life and job?
  • How will you know when you have reached your purpose?
  • What are your metrics for success?


The leader-follower dialogue must have balance. Employees see what is happening and are in a unique position to provide course-correcting feedback to leaders. Employees must be allowed to disagree with leadership to keep the organization on track for meeting its goals. By receiving rebuttals communicated from the employee, leaders promote open and honest dialogue, which sets the organization up for success.


To foster communication balance, the leader must allow communication reciprocity. Additionally, followers must stand up for what is right, no matter the cost. This is especially true if the follower notices the leader putting the team on a disastrous course.


Receiving rebuttals is more than just listening. The leader should actively listen to the rebuttal and ask pointed questions to understand the implications and projected outcomes fully. Consequently, this communication practice empowers employees to locate items for improvement and inspires them to do better quality work.



There is no downside to using these communication practices. Specifically, they foster individual employee growth, leader growth, promote creative thinking, and boost productivity because the employee is working for what they want. By using these three communication practices, communicating a clear target, communicating accountability, and receiving rebuttals, you can escape productivity tar.


Due to popular request, this article became the first in our new series on Productivity Improvement. Our second article is here.


You can better face your Leadership Challenge by joining SHVA’s leadership development engagements.

If you are looking to improve your job or find a new one, SHVA’s Career Coaching can help!

If you are looking for confidential executive coaching, SHVA’s Executive Coaching can help!

For those of you searching for general life coaching, SHVA offers general Life Coaching now!