When coaching Trilogy clients, I often make a comment that you may find valuable: “In the absence of information, most people fill in the blanks, make up their own story … and usually add negative assumptions.”
As a leader, your life is full and the last thing you’re worrying about is what other people know or don’t know. However, you understand what it feels like to be kept out of the loop. It’s uncomfortable and can lead to a lot of wasted (and wrong) assumptions.
For example, let’s say George has been coming to the office late and leaving early. He’s not himself. He doesn’t seem as engaged as he used to be. He seems a little secretive. What are you thinking?
Is George looking for a new job? Is he having trouble in his marriage? Is he suffering with an addiction or medical issue? Is he engaged in a major conflict at the office? What’s going on with George?
The answer is, “We don’t know because we’re not George.” Until George speaks up and says, “My mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and has been given less than a month to live,” we don’t know. He’s not looking for a new job. He’s not intentionally letting balls drop at work. He’s just dealing with the shock of losing his mother. Now, consider the time and energy given to wrong assumptions.
So, how do we get out of this conundrum? Well, here are a few ideas:
1. Remember that not everyone has access to all the information you have
One of the main reasons why this problem exists is because we fail to remember that people don’t always have the same access to the information we do. They don’t sit in the same meetings. They don’t have the same conversations. They don’t think about the same things. And that’s a problem.
You must remember to frequently communicate relevant information to your team, to encourage dialogue, minimize distractions and keep engagement high.
2. Remember that people often forget
Another common communication issue that plagues many leaders is that they tend to think that once they’ve communicated something, everyone present heard it and will remember it—two very bad assumptions.
You know that just because someone said something in your presence doesn’t mean that you heard it. And how many things have we “heard” that we didn’t remember a few hours or days later, let alone weeks or months.
Don’t worry about over-communicating! The best communicators and leaders stay on point over long periods of time because they know that information is often not processed or forgotten.
3. Remember that Alignment and Focus are rare
While we’d like to think that the “world” is conspiring for us, the reality is that individuals often have their own agenda, including your employees. And unless someone stands up and says, “This is where we’re going” and enforces alignment and focus toward that preferred future destination, many on your team will head in the way that best suits their own self-interest. Every organization needs someone at the top continually over-communicating what’s important so that there is a clarity of purpose, focus and alignment.
So, if you want to maximize understanding, focus and results, encourage communication and set the example. When possible, share information with your team that they might not have access to. Refuse to trust their memory and never assume that saying something once will keep your team in alignment. Instead, over-communicate. Keep everyone in the loop. And don’t allow your people to fill in the blanks. Remember: “In the absence of information, most people make up their own story … and usually with negative assumptions.”
So, what do you need to communicate today? For more ideas on how we can help you elevate your communication skills, contact Trilogy Partners at 609-688-0428.