Who me? TrustBUSTER™ #4 – Does not communicate and explain changes/decisions well

TrustBUSTER™ #4 – Does not communicate and explain changes/decisions well

I have had many opportunities to watch ‘trickle down’ communication in action.  In one such organization I worked with the senior leadership team to implement a new performance management tool for all their direct reports.  The decision was made to have each vice president roll out and explain the changes to their people.  The material was put together and given to each executive and a deadline for communicating the information was set.  As the deadline passed I had a chance to talk with a large sample of these direct reports and realized 50% of the executives had not communicated to their teams.  I was asked for my feedback in front of the executive team a few weeks later and I shared this statistic.  They became silent, and from their faces I could tell they were all wondering who had not followed through.  After all, they all saw themselves as a great communicator.

This is an area where the speed of business and the explosion of tools to communicate information has gotten in the way of true communication.  Too often the act of hitting the send button makes us believe that everyone knows.  So often the TrustBUSTER™ list is about perception, and the measure  of communication can be so subjective.  They key to making this TrustBUSTER™ go away is in developing the habit of slowing down work daily, weekly, and monthly to get groups together and share information.  The best resource I have found to explain what this looks like is probably Patrick Lencioni’s book Death By Meeting.  It would be worth reading for any leadership team. 

For a leader looking to understand how well things are being trickled down, here are three things you can do to get a pulse:

  1. Walk around and ask.  This probably seems too basic, but just getting out and asking people what they know or what they do not understand will give you lots of good information.  Questions like “What do you know about . . . ” or  “How is …… impacting you?” or “What kind of results have you seen – positive or negative?”
  2. Be purposeful in communicating change.  At a past organization, for every change initiative we would give all the leaders a sheet outlining exactly what needed to be said and answers to frequently asked questions.  Everyone had a message and the expectation was they would share it by a certain time.  We always spent time at the next meeting discussing what we heard and how people reacted.
  3. Leverage your staff meetings.  As organizations grow adding time for the leadership team to meet seems like overkill to many because “we talk all of the time.”  Hearing something in a quiet room has more impact than a passing comment in a hall.  Create space to debate, decide, and plan next steps so everyone knows how and why the decision was made.

This TrustBUSTER™ goes away when we slow down, seek to understand the perspective of others, and spend time explaining the what, why and how of things.  This is also called leadership. 🙂