Discover more from How to Lead Everybody (with their permission)
Do your people understand what you are doing?
I’ve been doing management consulting and leadership training for many years at this point. The most common issues we usually address involve poor communication.
Basically, people who don’t get the communication they need will assume the worst. The easiest example is to think of the parent of a teenager who texts their kid, “Hey, it’s getting late. Where are you?” If the teenager does not answer, the parent won’t assume, “I’m sure everything’s fine.” The parent will start imagining the worst options, usually short-handed to, “my kid is lying in a ditch somewhere.”
When I go into a company to conduct individual coaching sessions or interviews with the company’s senior staffers, I encourage the people who are bringing me in to let everyone in the company know in advance who I am and why I am talking to their senior staff members. If I just show up and start a series of closed-door conversations, the rumor mill starts churning.
“Are we being acquired?”
“Are they hiring a new CEO from outside the firm?”
“Are they planning on closing this branch office?”
Poor communication creates anxiety, since people tend to assume the worst.
As leaders, we can give people the reassurance of transparency. “My plan is to develop more repeat business with these clients over the next three years.” “I’m looking to expand this branch office, so we may need to move to a larger space when the current lease is up.” “I’m worried that we won’t be have enough work for this team if we can’t bring in at least two more projects in the next 6 months.” Don’t give away proprietary secrets, of course. And don’t violate the privacy of your team members, so DON’T say things like, “I’m going to fire Jeff if his attitude doesn’t improve” (but you DO need to be talking with Jeff about that attitude problem of his).
Let your people know what you are envisioning, why you are doing the things you are doing, and how you see their current and future success and opportunities fitting into those plans. In short, be transparent about your motivations, so your people don’t fill-in-the-blank with their worst imaginings.