Month: February 2017

OVER-Communicate, Please

What is the best way to kill the rumor mill?  Over-Communicate!

Don’t confuse that with “talk too much”.  I’m saying to communicate with your team more than you think you need to.  Remember, as a manager or other leader, you are in a privileged position to know things that your employees or teammates do not know; you have context to make sense of things that appear arbitrary or senseless to your team…help them by telling them as much as you can.

Rumors get started because people are trying to make sense out of something they don’t understand, so they come up with explanations that fit the facts as they know them.  But you know that they don’t know all the facts.  Suppose your company has just decided to expand into a new state, and build a new set of offices from the ground up.  Why does that make sense?  Why would they spend money on that and not on a new coat of paint for the building you’re in, for example?  Help people to understand how decisions are made in business.

Sometimes people are just trying to explain why some action hasn’t been taken yet, which seems obvious to them.  Share some context.  Maybe there is a legal concern that is blocking action right now.  You don’t have to give specifics, but you could say that something is hung up in legal.  Or, maybe there is counter-acting information that makes what would appear to be an obvious choice not so obvious.  Or maybe you don’t know either.  Tell them that, too.  They’ll respect you for your honesty, and trust you even more.

By communicating frequently and with as much open honesty as you can, you will build trust in your employees.  I understand, there are some things you can’t talk about.  And guess what?  Your team understands that, too.  You have a responsibility to keep certain information confidential.  But in my experience, most of the time, there is a lot of information that you can share without violating your fiduciary responsibilities.  Share as much as you can.  And when you can’t try sharing that, too.  There are times when I have had to tell my team, “I know from your point of view this action we are doing does not appear to make sense.  Right now I can’t tell you any of the details behind the scenes, but trust me that it will make sense when it all comes out.”  That’s tough because people will want to ask questions, but it’s a lot easier if you have established a reputation for sharing what you can, when you can.

Another key is to share information more than once.  You can’t assume that just because you told your team what was going on once that it was sufficient.  That would be like saying to your spouse, “I told you I loved you when I married you, if that changes, I’ll let you know.”  Tell them again.  (Tell your spouse every day and even more.)  Keep an open flow of communication with your team.  As time passes, people forget.  And sometimes things change with the passage of time as well.  One simple example would be decisions may be made seasonally.  Where I work, the summer is the busy season, and January is typically much slower.  We may postpone a project to the slow season so that we have the time to put on it.  On the other hand, we may postpone something to another period where cash flow is better.  There are lots of reasons why things may happen; and if you’re not filling in the gaps for people, they will make up their own answers to fill them in themselves.

True over-communication is rarely a problem.  This is a similar concept to the experience of time for a public speaker.  When speaking in public, it is important to slow yourself down and to force yourself to take pauses that seem like an eternity to you, the speaker, but to your audience are very brief moments in time.  Your experience of the passage of time as the speaker is far different from your audience’s experience.  And your experience of the amount of communication you do as the leader is far different from your team’s experience.  They are thirsting for information…share it.

It’s amazing what can happen when you treat people like responsible, trustworthy adults.

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Credit Where Credit is Due

I have a confession.  I am an avid fan of reading books about Leadership principles.  I think that many Leadership principles can be applied not just in managing employees or running a business, but in many other facets of life including raising children and making plans for your own life.  BUT, I am not a good note-taker when I read, and I tend to forget exactly where I read something.  I’ll remember the lesson or maybe a quote, but forget who said it or where I read it.

My views on life and leadership have been shaped largely by a handful of people.  Among those are two of my favorite authors:  Dr. John C. Maxwell and Patrick Lencioni.  In my opinion you can’t go wrong with reading any of their books.  Other key influencers are my father who was a great dentist and small business owner, my pastors, my wife and some personal mentors over the years.

I will always strive to give credit where credit is due when it comes to ideas, lessons, quotes, and so on, but if I fail to directly attribute a quote or other key idea, please consider it likely that it came from either Maxwell or Lencioni, and forgive me my shortcomings in note-taking and footnoting.  By no means do I intend to take credit for their work, and I will always try to add my own shading to the topic.

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Book Review: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

For my first book of 2017, and my test-run of using Audible to listen to books in the car while I commute to my office, I chose Scott Adams’ How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.  This turned out to be a great idea as the book is written in a simple narrative as Scott recounts stories from his past and weaves in leadership and self-help ideas.

Having read much of Scott Adams’ blog posts over the last year on the Master Persuader filter, and of course being a fan of Dilbert, I was a little skeptical that there would be much serious content in this book.  I was presently surprised to discover that several of the points that are made in this book overlap or run in close parallel to many of the leadership principles taught by my favorite authors on the subject.  In fact, i found that the way that they are presented in this book helped clarify and cement some of them in my mind with new ideas of how to apply the principles to my own life.

New to me in this book are Scott’s emphasis on Systems over Goals and his Moist Robot Hypothesis.  While I think the Moist Robot Hypothesis can be taken too far, I do agree with the basis, which is that we can program ourselves for success or other improvements.  It’s not too far of a stretch from the Power of Association, which any parent immediately recognizes and starts asking questions about the other kids that their kids hang around.

Overall a good read (or listen, in my case) with interesting stories mixed-in with immediately usable ideas.  For sensitive readers, be aware that the BS word pops up with some degree of regularity.

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