“90% of the problems we endure can likely be prevented by better communication.” I used to say this all the time to my Marines, managers and process assistants. I would always see heads moving up and down in agreement. The problem was I was stating the obvious. Like I said, they agreed. I realized all I was doing was articulating an overt issue but not doing anything about it. The true disconnect was (and is) that people assumed other people could, would, or knew how to communicate effectively and therefore a reminder about communication would be a viable solution. It’s a “bystander effect” where reliance is placed on others to carry out a simple task rather than ensure it is done. The is a grave mistake.
Leadership and Communication Sound leadership is predictated not only on decision making and problem solving, but also on the ability to push information effectively and concisely.
“I want you to overcommunicate with me. Push information all the time, even if you feel it’s trivial. The less I have to ask for the better.” This was standard guidance I used to give and it proved to be tremendously effective.
No one in this technology infused era can deny that our favorite phone features rely on either the pushing of information or the convenient manner in which we can receive information. I’m not talking about phone calls or texts. I’m talking about calendar reminders for your dog’s vet appointment, notifications that someone liked your social media post, getting a weather alert, or finding out that your package has been delivered. We process more than we ever have because we are blasted with information - much of it irrelevant. I would argue that we can all sift quite well.
So occupationally, it would be foolish for me not to verbalize completions of my tasks or expect the same from those under me. We can take it. The funny thing is, while it may sometimes feel like a nuisance, these “exchanges” find a funny way of vastly increasing our situational awareness; the most intangible skill that isn’t discussed nearly enough. Something work-related someone may have told you even, as you were already at capacity, can resurface almost involuntarily when that information is needed.
Leaders know what’s going on because leaders listen. Leaders are pushed information when they push information regularly. It sends a message that you want everyone “in the know.” Because after all, no one likes to be the guy or gal that has to say “no one told me” or “I didn’t know that.” I have a communication strategy that is virtually bulletproof and can elevate your ability to exchange information effectively.
3 Simple Questions
Have you ever found yourself in a situation, personal or professional, where there were things you needed to know but no one told you? I know I know, it’s rhetocial. Chances are you do it to people as well! Ask these 3 simple questions and you’ll never go wrong:
1. WHAT do I know?
2. WHO needs to know?
3. DO they know?
Just earlier this week I received some bad family news. When I spoke to my father he was beside himself. When I hear him like that it pains me to no end. That same day my wife, daughter and I were headed to the museum. The car ride seemed to take forever. Every sound was irritating. I just wanted to be alone. Then it dawned on me. My wife didn’t know how I felt. She had been corralling our daughter while I was on my call before we left the house . What could I possibly expect of her in terms of support? So I told her how I was feeling and almost immediately I started to feel better and she started to be the incredible wife that she is and listened attentively and sincerely. What do I know? Who needs to know? Do they know?
In a workspace or collaborative environment when you’re dealing with people you don’t know like you do your significant other or family members / close friends, this 3 question strategy is an enormous way to earn trust - or break it if you’re not careful.
Next week I will discuss a template I created for how to give feedback. For now, it must be understood that in order to foster work relationships that you don’t have to ponder, it is best to have excess conversations; pleasant or difficult. The only way you can learn about more about expectations, thought processes for decisions, human factors that affect performance, etc is to actually discuss them. I would also offer that these conversations should always take place in person if proximity allows it. Why?
If you forgo that opportunity to instead craft a text, email, or fax you run the risk of being perceived that you can’t confidently have those conversations or that you as the recipient aren’t valued enough to try and solve an issue from the same side of the table. That only happens when both parties are present.
In the End
There is basically no good reason to withhold information when you have it. You just have to practice deciphering what can have a potential impact on a business or a person.
Do I need to tell my mom what I had for lunch today? Probably not. Do I need to my mother-in-law that I moved her car and her keys are by the door? Yes.
Do I need to tell my boss how much gas is left in my car? Probably not. Do I need to tell my boss I’m going to be late to work because of an accident on the highway...and that same accident will affect associate arrival times so the initial headcount at start of shift will be lower than usual? Yes. That will impact first hour productivity.
Give these 3 questions a shot and encourage others to do the same. Let me know how it goes!
All the best,