(This is Part 9 of Leadership Principles)
Have you ever felt like the proverbial mushroom at work? Kept in the dark and fed a lot of, well… manure? Uncertainty generates fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety generate gossip. Gossip generates rumors and distractions. Rumors and distractions destroy productivity and generate distrust. Do you see where I’m going?
We often behave like everything is a state secret that requires a security clearance before someone can be brought into the fold. It’s maddening walking by a conference room with a bunch of muck-a-mucks in it and wondering what they’re plotting (is it a reorg? a layoff? cancellation of the holiday party so we can make our end of year numbers?). It’s amazing how secretive we can be when theoretically we’re all on the same team.
Imagine a football team where the huddle consisted of the quarterback, the wide receiver and the center. All the other players have to stand over in the corner and wait until the three in the huddle break and line up for the play. The center snaps the ball. The wide receiver runs his route. The quarterback drops back to pass. And everyone else stands around muttering about how they have no idea what is going on. The odds of that play being successful don’t seem very high. An extreme example? I don’t think so. Reflect on behavior in your organization over the past six months and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of similar examples.
So what’s the fix?It involves people getting hit by a beer truck (or a bus or some other heavy contraption moving at high speeds). I’m speaking metaphorically of course. It goes something like this – if you were hit by a beer truck on your way home from work, would your team be able to carry on and achieve their goals without your direction? Would they know the plan? Would they know what to do in your absence? The only way to answer “yes” to those questions is to let them in on everything (well, everything that’s not confidential like mergers or personnel actions, of course).
I adopted these principles for communicating with my team back in my platoon leader days. In the event of combat (or even training, which could be dangerous and deadly), there was a distinct possibility of a leader falling in the middle of the fight. To prevent total anarchy in the face of such an event, EVERY member of the unit knew THE ENTIRE PLAN. This way, if the commander, platoon leader, tank commander, etc. were removed from the battle (most of the time due to a defective radio – God bless America and purchasing from the lowest bidder) the unit could still accomplish the mission.
If you’re wringing your hands right now at the prospect of being more open with your team, you’re either an information hoarder (Bad hoarder! Bad!) or you don’t trust your people (which means they probably don’t trust you either). If you want your team to be more open in its communications, you have to set the tone. The only way to do that is to let them in on “the secret.”
Start small. Show them you trust them and want them involved. If they violate that trust, deal with it appropriately. If they uphold it, keep bringing them deeper into the fold. They’ll appreciate it. They’ll feel more connected, committed and involved which will lead to better morale and productivity (and reduce turnover to boot).
Give it a try. They’re wearing the same jersey you are. Let them in the huddle.
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC