Communicating at work maybe isn’t ROI, but focus on it

Check out this graphic; I got it from an article on Harvard Business Review about the leadership traits that employees don’t like about their managers:

Leadership Traits That Employees Don't Like

Break this down for a second:

There’s 9 things on this chart. Every single one of them is about communication. Why is this so complicated for people?

I’m in Vegas right now for a work function (essentially a trade show) and a few hours ago, I went to a work event at a bar within a casino. I ended up talking to this guy about issues related to this; namely, here’s how you should start work projects:

  • Figure out what the goal of the project is
  • Figure out the core people who will work on it
  • Figure out who the project might affect as it evolves
  • Convene a meeting of all these people, in case they’re in different places
  • Say “these are the leads” and “these are people who will do other stuff”
  • Say “Hey, this project might evolve or become something else, but that can happen with anything”
  • “If you have no idea what this is right now, here’s some context.”
  • “It might land in your lap in 1 week, 2 weeks, 10 weeks, 25 weeks, etc.

This seems logical to me, but … maybe I’m not a very logical person, or even an intelligent one. But remember, the whole thing about work is pretty simple: people are not creatures of logic; they are creatures of emotion.

I guess here’s the point I always come back to, right? Communication is often viewed as a soft skill, in that … for example … companies have been communicating poorly for decades and still making money hand over fist. So I feel like it’s not prioritized because it’s not as tied to revenue, but … think about it this way for a second:

  • Some of the most important things in your life: family, friends, marriage, etc.
  • What’s the cornerstone of almost all those things?
  • Trust, relationships, communication

It’s nearly the complete opposite at work.

So the whole idea is you chase one thing at work and one thing in your personal life, right? I guess that makes sense. Work and family aren’t the same thing; you don’t commit to work forever (definitely not anywhere), for example. You often do commit to family for that stretch of time, though. So the direct comparison points are a bit weird, but … it’s still a way to think about things.

No. 2 on that chart above is a serious problem that I’ve seen at all types of companies. We don’t give clear directions. This comes from any number of factors — our parents, our work culture, our views on communication, our intelligence, etc. — but it’s a total fucking scourge. Go back to those bullet points above and it comes back to this:

  • Stop
  • Think
  • Who is connected to this?
  • Stop
  • Think
  • How could we do this better?
  • Stop
  • Think
  • Write down ideas about what the core deliverable is
  • Stop
  • Think
  • Practice presenting the core ideas/directions
  • Stop
  • Think
  • Do it

This whole think is about just taking a second to stop and think at work.

Understand and believe in that. It’s the first step in communicating better.

Ted Bauer

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