Category Archives: #WorkCulture
Have you ever heard the saying:
“It’s not what’s said, it’s what is unsaid that speaks the loudest”
Some leaders operate under the “need to know” philosophy when it comes to communicating important news to their employees. Others might give a partial statement or narrative and leave key elements of a message out. And still others might not say anything at all in an effort to not give attention to a situation.
The problem with these approaches is that it ignores the basic human nature to “fill in the blanks” when no information is given to important matters.
Employees, both individually and collectively, need proper communication and correct information. They need to perform their jobs, to understand the health of the company, and to know where their future lies within the organization. And when that information is not given, they will start to fill in the “blanks” or gaps to make sense of what is going on.
When your people fill in the gaps left open by your communication, they oftentimes come up with the wrong conclusions. These lead to mistrust, panic, apathy, or division and threaten to derail the culture of the organization. And if they conclude the missing information correctly, this alos leads to mistrust of leadership that they weren’t trusted to be told.
Here are some strategies to communicate and fill in the blanks and close the information gaps in your messages to your people.
Here is what you can do to fill in the blanks before your people do:
- Jump on the communication immediately. This company should have had an immediate meeting with the staff and contacted everyone to explain the reasons for the events that transpired. The longer they waited the more chance for incorrect information to be manufactured and disseminated.
- Be upfront, honest, and transparent. Staff like it when you talk straight with them. Give them the faacts and be brave enough to have those difficult discussions, particularly if their is doubt or indicators contrary to what you’re saying. The more this occurs, the more your words carry weight.
- Give opportunity to listen and answer questions. By keeping an ear to the grapevine, you can gain a lot of insight into what people are feeling. Take every chance to talk with people in groups or individually to hear them and counter their fears and anxiety with the facts and reassure them.
- Speak to the culture, the mission, and the vision. Finish every conversation by leading people out of the negativity and forward looking to the bigger picture. This is not an attempt to falsely redirect, but rather to truthfully re-calibrate everyone’s thinking towards the overall goal and where you are all heading. The more culture and vision are promoted in your organization, the less likely there will be room for filling in the blanks with anything off-base. Your people will be more readily able to say what is congruent to the organization and squelch rumors and gaps altogether.
Keep your finger on the pulse of your people. Close those communication gaps and work diligently to fill in the blanks that lead to culture breakdown.
Have you ever worked for an organization in which there was an “unwritten rule”?
These are usually practices outside the norm of standard procedures. Quite often, they are usually discovered by someone within their first couple of years in the company, when a unique situation arises.
Then someone pulls you aside and says, “We have an unwritten rule about this...” and tells you what you should do at this point.
Unwritten rules may have an intended purpose, but they create some unintended consequences:
- They may run contrary to other sound policies and procedures in place. Sometimes these rules go against practices for expediency, which is why they’re unwritten in the first place.
- Their execution can undermine trust. They communicate to staff that when all else fails, or when roadblocks occur, then there is another set of standards. This send mixed signals to your people.
- They can send conflicting messages throughout your organization. “When all goes to script we do X, but when the script goes out the window, we do Y”. These rules say “we make up the rules as we go”.
- They expose holes in processes and systems that need to be tidied up. You’ll need to examine your procedures and make sure your systems are congruent with your mission.
- Oftentimes they support a person who is subverting the system … because if it was a written rule, they’d be transparent. Unwritten rules many times hide devious workplace behavior.
There may always be an unwritten rule here and there that fall through the cracks. If that happens, by all means work to weave them into the operations. However, check every unwritten rule to make sure they don’t undermine your core values, and what the rationales are for them being there. If they fail to support your mission, then these “unwritten rules” need to be “written off”.
What are the “unwritten rules” in your organization? Identify them, qualify them, then write them off or write them in.
Last month Peter Barron Stark, an executive coach on San Diego, tweeted about this leader who had a question about “this vision thing”.
Recently an #executive asked me “Is this vision thing overrated?” What do you think? Do you think that #vision is overrated? #leadership https://t.co/FlF6agmKAr— Peter Barron Stark (@peterbstark) April 1, 2019
It brought up some thoughts as to why some leaders don’t really get “that vision thing”.
They don’t see past the “action-results” dynamic. As Stark iterated, vision drives behaviors whether they’re positive, status quo based or negative. Many leaders get stuck in the thinking that results are the by-product of actions, so actions must be driven. That creates results, but many of them are mixed, some positive, some status quo and some negative. Leaders need to back up a step to create a vision that drives the actions towards positive results.
Some don’t truly understand what drives human behavior. Not employee behavior, but human behavior. People, especially the younger generations of Millennials and iGen. They want the vision to much of what they do, not a “do as I say” culture. People are connected best with the big picture, buying into what it means for them. It creates connected partners with more passion and at stake in the results versus compelled workers who mostly try to hang on.
Don’t value vision as a priority. It is said that what you do is what is important to you, and what you don’t do, you don’t value. Simply stated, if a leader doesn’t create vision, it’s not important to them. it’s never too late to get a vision clearly established, but to claim there is no time or it’s not important will hamper your overall goals.
Vision challenges their leadership style. Vision will often expose the efforts of leaders whose styles include being solely results-oriented, a micro-manager, top-down-chain-of-command or managing on a need-to-know basis. Vision creates transparency and accountability as everyone is committed to the behaviors that will achieve it.
They’re dominated by short-term thinking. This year’s budget is all that matters with no set up for the overall culture or future goals. That might be good to hit numbers, but it never drives a lasting and sustainable organization. Long-term vision and people development get sacrificed for the results of the fiscal year when this year’s numbers are preeminent.
Understanding vision is to understand human performance. Without vision, people and organizations perish. With it, they not only succeed but thrive.