The absolute No. 1 thing that gets the lowest scores on any employee survey, almost regardless of industry and context, is communication. This makes perfect sense: humans are flawed beings, they often want things they can’t explain properly, they often enter most situations with boatloads of biases about how and why and when things need to be done, and working styles are different. If you have a staff of even 10, it’s almost impossible to get them to communicate properly. The marketing dude thinks 1 thing is important, and the IT guy thinks another thing is. When they talk, there will be an impasse. It’s life.
As you get bigger organizations, this communication becomes more complex — and thus harder. It doesn’t help that most managers aren’t really great at their jobs. And it certainly don’t help that many managers arrive at that state and feel they need to always be the person who knows everything. When they don’t know something, they get scared — and then act in a way designed to show that they’re still in control. This makes communication even worse. There’s absolutely no correlation or causation between “formal power” and “most knowledgeable about a situation,” but we’ve been making that mistake of hierarchy for six decades+ now.
So let’s say you’re running a meeting or working with others in some way, right? And let’s say you’re talking about ideas and initiatives. How could you make this all more effective?
Tons of people go to tons of seminars and meetings each year on this whole topic — more effective communication, better teamwork, better leadership. They spend thousands of dollars and come back with some acronyms and a suite of products. That’s it. Two days later, they’re doing the same stupid crap they were before the seminars. It’s a racket.
Advice often falls by the wayside because, honestly, people are busy — or think they’re busy — and they don’t have the time to change their ways, ITHO. So you need to give ’em something really simple.
OK. How about this?
After every sequence of idea generation in a meeting or collaboration session:
- Pause for 45 seconds
- Respond with respect
Pause for 45 seconds: It can seem like a huge amount of time that goes on forever, sure. But many managers have created a culture where their underlings are afraid to speak up because the manager often jumps in and tries to control or showcase his knowledge of the situation. If you pause for 45 seconds and can do that consistently, someone will speak up, and new ideas or concepts will come out. That’s good.
Respond with respect: Respect should be a commonplace concept in the workforce, but it’s sadly often not. If you’re the type of person who thinks respect needs to be tied to salary level, go throw yourself into an industrial-strength fan. Human beings are human beings. Some are smart, some are dumb, and some make more money than others. None of that matters when it comes to idea generation, because an organizational breakthrough can come from anywhere. Respect people. They’re humans. They have families. They have needs. They’re not just there for you to assign work to and shit on. OK?
So there’s two simple ways you can do to communicate better. Pause, then respond respectfully. Try this for a week. I guarantee you it makes your team more comfortable and more effective.