Communicate for Results
In my years as an executive manager, I was afforded the opportunity to sit in on meetings to observe personal interactions. It was always interesting to watch people interact.
One particular occasion involved a group of managers that were called together by a senior leader of the company. The senior leader was discouraged by recent team performance. He had previously spoken to them on numerous occasions, felt he had spelled out the changes he wanted to be implemented and yet he was extremely frustrated that their performance yielded no improvement.
Since I had the advantage of being briefed on the meeting prior to attendance, I was completely aware of the issues that concerned him as well as his goal for the meeting. The meeting began with the leader following his agenda, which included a laundry list of items he wanted to be corrected. The attendees nodded their heads in agreement, yet a month later their goals were not met.
When the leader asked me what went wrong, I reminded him that a monologue is not a conversation. Even high-level executives often forget that communication is a two-way street. It is important to not only deliver the message but to check for understanding. Such a simple concept, yet often ignored. Executives are spending hours trying to figure out why performance isn’t where it should be and it is as simple as communication; management 101.
When the leader said he wanted to “see improvement” he needed to define his terms – He needed to explain specifically what improvement meant to him in this particular situation. It was a mistake on his part to assume understanding. They nodded in agreement to their perception of his requests, but their perception was incorrect. This is a very common communication mistake. The managers went to work diligently but did not accomplish the correct goal.
If you are in upper management, you may forget that your day is much different than that of a line manager. You think strategically on a daily basis – they think operationally. You think of how all the pieces fit together, they think about their own particular piece.
Unless you take the time to recognize your audience, you may be setting yourself up for disaster. Don’t run your meeting from your perspective, run it from theirs.
The meeting I observed was common. As an outsider, it was very clear to me that the participants had no real idea what they were agreeing to do. It was also clear that the leader believed he delivered a clear and concise message.
Be sure to keep the communication flowing in both directions. It will help you reach your corporate goals and will help your line managers meet your expectations. It’s as simple as getting back to the basics.