A clear communication channel is required between team members and their leader, a team leader and other team leaders, and between a leader and his or her leader. The only time it is appropriate to step outside of the channel is if there is an emergency or if the issue has something to do with the leader themselves. Otherwise, working outside of the proper communication channels ultimately sends mixed messages in regards to problem resolution, direction, and the overall chain of command.
Three instances that should be reined in when noticed:
- Team members take issues to someone else within the organization, rather than addressing them with the Leader of their team.
- A member of the Leadership team addresses an issue related to another division with their Leader before addressing it with the appropriate leader of that division (they do not give the other person the courtesy of providing feedback / a chance to resolve the issue).
- Lack of continuous team improvement. If a team is not improving, it is typically due to lack of self-awareness/internal communication.
Causes of communication breakdown:
- Lack of communication.
- New hire that is not yet 100% knowledgeable.
- People (at every level) letting it happen.
How should we address?
- Team members must take their issues to their leader first.
- Leaders must continuously prove that they are the right resource.
- Other Leaders must support the communication channel and either revert the issue back to the appropriate team leader or bring them in immediately, rather than addressing the issue without them.
When we see a strain on the communication channel, the best thing to do is regroup, and remind others of the proper channels to take. Then we ourselves must be supportive and disciplined.
All organizations should plan, execute, monitor performance, adjust,……..plan, execute, monitor performance, adjust,………repeat, repeat, repeat. Each one of these steps should incorporate performance metrics. Performance metrics are typically quantitative data sets, that are based on key indicators (what is important/key is different for each organization). Key decisions should not be made solely on objective data, but they should never without validating against the organizations performance metrics. Also, not having performance metrics (the data) is not an excuse, it is merely an admission that the data needs to be created and tracked moving forward.
Growth oriented organizations track their performance, and what is being tracked continues to evolve so that decision-making is more objective and brisk. When we understand what success looks like, and how we are doing comparatively, we are able to make decisions quickly and with greater accuracy. There is always a portion of our decision that is based on gut-feel, and we want that portion to be the tipping point rather than the basis for the decision. We may have the gut-feeling that we need to do something, but we need the supporting data to determine what that something is, and how we will move forward. Once we have the data, the gut-feel still plays a part in moving forward with the decision. There are many benefits of using support metrics in our decision-making process:
- More timely decisions: We have the “feeling” it is time to hire an additional resource. Once we look into the supporting data we realize that business has in fact increased, but while it looks sustainable, we still need to see more of an increase before moving forward. We decide to wait because we believe if the business activity continues to increase, the additional hire will be financially feasible and the probability of long-term employment will be higher.
- Objective data is hard to argue with: Strong disagreements and emotions are present when decisions are being made primarily on subjective data. When there is a disagreement, people feel they are right and we are wrong; they may even lose confidence in your decision-making going forward. If this happens, it is the fault of the leader for not requiring a more disciplined and objective approach to decision-making. With objective data, there is more common ground, and the approach is more sensible when the subjectivity is coupled with strong objective data.
- Discovery of inefficiencies: While the data may tell us that we need to do something, often times what needs to be done is different from what was originally proposed. Examples: Do we need more people on the team, or do we need a different process? Do we need that new system, or do we just need people to fully understand what is required of them? Do we need to invest more in that program, or do we need to divest ourselves of it because it is not growing fast enough? Sometimes when a team member approaches us and says, we really need to do “this”, we end up determining that something needs to be done – but after looking at the data together we determine that what is needed is totally different from what was initially proposed.
- Sustainable Growth: Every bad decision negatively impacts growth. A focus on objective data helps us increase the probability of making good quality decisions that promote consistent growth.
Take a look at the organizations/people who are consistently successful. How do they make decisions? They are not just “lucky”. People and businesses make bad decisions when objective (the facts) data is ignored. The “I want”, “I feel”, “We should have that because they do”, “This will solve everything”, kind of comment is subjective (an opinion). This subjective data is not necessarily bad, as long as it is weighed against the objective and factual data of what is really going on.
Leaders must be aware of their attitude at all times. Fact: Attitudes are inherited by others. If a leader is negative, others will be negative. If a leader is excited and motivated, the same holds true. What is most unfortunate, is when leaders forget how infectious negative attitudes can be. All the big problems and big opportunities are brought to a leader’s attention. How to react is a choice. If the issue (good or bad) will end up requiring a team effort, does it do any good to inject negativity into the environment from the onset? Absolutely not, but it can be easily done by mistake without proper control of emotion. Therefore, we must be self-aware of our emotional state, and make sure that the attitude we are projecting is reflective of how we really want things to move forward.
Couple of examples:
- Stress inflicted attitude: Assume things are extremely busy because the organization is growing. If those that are having to do the work react in negative ways, how does this change the attitude of others in the organization? By complaining, others may perceive growth to be a bad thing. This example is likely one of the most prevalent we see, and those that fall into this trap are doing so subconsciously. When one complains about the workload they have, others perceive it as them wishing that nothing would change and that the organization would stop growing (the perception is that they wish they had less work to do). So rather than being excited about growth, others interpret growth to be something that is not wanted. Talk about demotivating others! The better attitude is a “bring it on, and keep doing a great job” attitude. While the leader may not “feel” like this due to their current stress level, they do deep down and it is the attitude they should portray since good leaders are going to figure out how to deal with long-term growth and they understand how it important it is for everyone to keep growing.
- First reactions to a potential problem/change: Assume we hear of an issue from an outside source, which we immediately perceive to be negative and potentially damaging. At the point of the news being definitive, we have a choice of how to react. Assuming there are positive pieces of news with the coming change, and that change is required, it would not be in our best interest to talk negatively of the situation in front of our team. Instead, we should acknowledge potential issues, while driving home the positive side of the situation. Starting out negative makes for an uphill battle in team motivation/success, and success requires buy-in from every member of the team.
Others watch leaders and take notice of their attitude. Attitudes form assumptions. A positive attitude is not required 100% of the time, but ensuring our attitude reflects the goals of the organization is a requirement. Be sure to ask the other leaders in your organization to keep you in check on your attitude (It is best to cut out all potential drama and have a clear and honest relationship with everyone so that everyone knows it is ok to confront one another about their attitude). I know if I go through my day with a frown on my face, I expect someone on the team to ask me what the problem is. And when they do, I always appreciate it and adjust.