- March 21, 2018
- Posted by: David Marshall
- Category: Leadership, management
A recent article, Eight Mistakes Leaders Make That Kill Employee Trust, briefly discussed different management shortcomings and problems that we may unknowingly have or use, which can ruin employees’ respect for us. I wanted to address each of these mistakes and help you learn how to avoid them.
Slide #3 in the Industry Week article was undercommunicating. The idea that you wouldn’t share as much as you could, or needed to, with your staff. Leaders who undercommunicate think that information is power, and they play their cards close to the vest. They won’t share thoughts and information with people, because they think that is what makes them powerful.
What happens in that case is something I like to call “The CNN Effect.” The office news cycle is like CNN: It runs 24/7, and if they don’t have any news to report, they make it up and start overanalyzing everything. Rumors fly and it’s a hell of a thing to try to control once it gets running.
To make sure I never undercommunicated, one thing I always did was to hold monthly meetings with everybody in the organization. I shared all the financials with them, the current industry hot topics, and also my thoughts on what the market would be 90 days or 180 days out. I would tell them if I thought we would see a slow down or a pickup in sales and manufacturing activity.
Then, also once a month, I meet with a small group of people from all disciplines, about 10 or 15 of them, for an hour — Donuts with Dave, they called it — and I would encourage them to talk about they wanted to talk about.
You could say I actually overcommunicated, but undercommunication is a terrible thing to recover from, so I wanted to be safe instead of sorry.
Why do leaders undercommunicate?
This is often an ego driven problem.
One of my four non-negotiables in business has been to check your ego at the door and bring your brain inside. And it always drives me crazy when people don’t do that.
When I would sit in a meeting and somebody was not participating, I would ask them their opinion. If they would say “I don’t have an opinion,” my response was “then why are you here?”
I don’t have to agree with your opinion, but if you just breathe in the oxygen I need and are not participating, the truth of the matter is, there’s no upside for me, you, your colleagues, or the company, and more particularly, the customer. (I didn’t actually say this part, but the subtext was certainly there.)
Several years ago, I took over a business in Las Vegas that was failing as part of an acquisition by my employer. The management was very poor, and there had been a very poor acquisition integration. They had also relocated the business from California to Las Vegas at the same time.
When I got involved with the business, I looked at it and asked, “When was the last time you gave everybody a state of the company talk?”
Not surprisingly, it had never happened, so I said, “Well, it’s going to happen from here on in.”
I brought everybody together and I gave them a complete update of the state of the organization (in shambles), where it was (near the end), and where I thought it was going to go (the rest of the way).
These people had absolutely no clue it was coming. They just came to work and went home, but never knew what the company was going through. I explained what was happening and said “we’ve got an awful lot of work to do to salvage this thing.”
The interesting thing was that at least half the people came to me afterwards and said they didn’t want to hear what I said, but they appreciated that I had said it, because no one had said it to them.
While we couldn’t save the business — this was during the early 2000s during the dot-com bubble, and then the bubble burst — I did learn a valuable lesson in the importance of communicating with people, no matter how painful it might be. People might not want to learn that the ship they’re on is sinking, but they certainly don’t want to be surprised and find out that it’s completely sunk on the final day you’re open for business.
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.