In my personal blog, I recently wrote a post that talked about The “Tyranny of Knowledge” in which I shared why we are sometimes misunderstood. Today, I want to share a use case that demonstrates one way leveraging Social Business platforms can improve communications.
One of the biggest challenge a leader faces is they are expected to know the answers. A leader does know…or does he/she?
Your Leadership Style
Let’s look at two different approaches and decide which is likely to achieve the best results
Your boss tells you, “You need to work 60hr/week because there is insufficient money to hire someone else” Your reaction is you are angry or frustrated, you have no input or understanding of why you are being asked to work longer hours, or what the problem is at all, but fear asking questions because your boss has a habit of getting angry when his authority is questioned. If the situation continues in this way, chances are you are looking for a new job and boss.
Now, let’s look at a different approach.
Your boss tells you, “We have a lot of work that isn’t being done. I realize that you are working hard. We need to either work longer hours or come up with ways to make things more efficient because we don’t have the money to hire more people. Do you have any ideas?”. The fact you are being asked for your input (and given a choice) totally changes your view. More than likely you have even taken on part of this problem as your own. You may even admire and/or respect your boss for being upfront and honest with you. You may, in fact, even end up working 60hr or even 70hr weeks.
While the first approach may solve the problem faster, it is more than likely going to have a long term negative impact that far outweighs the upside. What is important to note is neither of these approaches have give up any control. Even in the second case where people are asked for input, it’s clear the boss still owns the decision.
“It is better to ask some of the questions than know all the answers.”
- James Thurber
The importance of Listening
I was recently in an organization where the leader declared, “90% of your job is communications” and then proceeded to lay out a plan on how we were going to tell people what we are doing. What was missing is there was no process or activity to solicit people’s feedback. If you are not listening, then you are missing a huge opportunity to understand if people really “get” your message, or perhaps there’s valuable information they are trying to share that could impact your view.
The two phases of leadership communications
During this phase, you should be soliciting input from people around you (crowdsourcing), leading the conversation by sharing constraints that may not be apparent, but also ensuring the comments and suggestions align to your goal. If you are under a deadline, share that, it will help develop the sense of urgency. Don’t just listen to the people who work for you. Listen to others that may have some perspective that may be invaluable. It’s through this serendipity that the value of Social Business really shines. What is important is to not shut anyone down in the process, instead work to bring people to gain greater insight and perspective. All feedback is good, the perspective may not be in line with yours, but sometimes even the most irrelevant suggestions might provide value or to look at the challenge in a new way. The most important thing during this phase is to keep an open mind. Also, it’s important to remember people have feelings. You are trying to build a community you can rely on. You will be best served by encouraging them, not discouraging them.
The decision and next steps
We can’t operate in planning stage forever. If this were the case, nothing would ever get done. Now it’s time to seal the deal. Make sure when you solicit the community for feedback, you communicate the decision, with as much clarity as possible and be to include why the decision was made. This is how you are going to get people to better understand the decision and ultimately support it. Often, we may ask for feedback, and make a decision that seems counter-intuitive and wonder why people aren’t supporting the decision. It’s because they don’t understand it.
To help get past the decision, it’s best to lay out next steps and next challenges, This will help everyone shift their focus to the new challenge.
While this process of social leadership communications may seem to be more effort and slower, I have found in my experience most times I end up not only with a better decision, but an aligned team ready to support the effort.
The other caveat that I need to share with this approach is, it’s not instant. It will take people a while to get what you are doing and align with the approach as well as to build trust and realize the value of contribution. This is not a project, but a process and it must be repeated time after time in a consistent way. It is through this consistent leadership that your business goals will be achieved.
I’m always curious to hear what people think. Please let me know what you do to lead. Also, let me know if I got something wrong.
Photo credit 姒儿喵喵