Have you ever belonged to a team in which the leader rarely communicated what he or she expected of you or the team and didn’t value what you contributed? I have and it’s hard to stay motivated and feel fulfilled in your job. It’s like being on a row boat in heavy fog. You know you have to row, but if you can’t see land and the leader isn’t telling you where you are going and why you need to continue to row; how long will you continue? Good leaders communicate openly and clearly. They let those who are rowing; know where they are going and why! A few things you can start doing today to help those who are rowing know where they are going and why include:
- Make your expectations of those you lead clear, ensure they understand what you want from them. There’s a great commercial I remember years ago. It starts by showing a mother frantically looking for her little girl. She runs outside and sees her little daughter getting ready to cross the street at a busy intersection. Her relief quickly turns to anger as she scolds the little girl and ask her “how many times have I told you not to go to the corner.” The little girl looks up with sad eyes and says – “mommy, what’s a corner?” Don’t make assumptions that people understand what it is you want; communicate what you want – clearly. Ask for understanding and commitment clarification frequently and make sure everyone knows what it is you expect of them. One thing you can do now to improve communication is at the end of every meeting or discussion review what has been discussed and ask if everyone understands, if not, then revisit until every person is on the same page.
- Two, with the permission of the meeting leader, cascade decisions that have been made in meetings down to those you lead and up the organization. Do this in person where possible or on the phone so those you are cascading to can ask questions for clarification. By communicating decisions that have been made down the organization as well as up, it will result in greater communication and commitment of the organization as a whole and commits your immediate team to doing those things they agreed to.
- Commit to and give those you lead the tools and resources they need to succeed. You can communicate your expectations all day long, but if those you lead don’t have the support to fulfill your expectations, they will ultimately fail. Make sure that if the job requires a hammer, that you don’t give a saw instead. It is a great tool, but it can’t do the job of a hammer.
- And finally, it’s not enough to only let those who are rowing know where they are going, but to also let them know that they are important contributors to getting there. Help those you lead know why what they do is important – help them make the connection. Tell them how what they do helps you in your job as well as those around them. Doing so will help followers feel valued and will result in greater commitment of those you lead.
In summary here are the four practical suggestions for communicating clearly and frequently. Remember, unless you commit these suggestions to action, you won’t improve:
- Make your expectations clear. Assess understanding and ensure everyone is on the same page after each meeting or discussion.
- Cascade decisions that have been made down and up the organization so you can get greater commitment.
- Ensure those you lead have the proper resources and tools.
- Don’t only let those who are rowing know where they are going, but also make sure you tell them how important their contribution is to getting there.
Communicating clearly, positively and frequently will get you where you want to go a lot faster than being infrequently clear and ignoring the contributions of those who are getting you there.
Mike is the founder and principal owner of SecondG.net a team and leadership development company. SecondG.net provides leadership and team workshops to companies of all sizes.
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