“Communicate unto the other person that which you would want him to communicate unto you if your positions were reversed.” — Aaron Goldman
Across the years, especially when I was a young employee or supervisor, I was always interested in how little information flowed in the organizations I belonged to. The standard fare was a staff meeting report, typically a highly edited retelling of the “senior staff” meeting that took place on a weekly basis. I was often amazed at how the information that was passed to us rarely connected to anything of action but was largely just a litany of what the work force should be doing about appointments, deadlines, and perhaps some requisite training activity.
When I was asked to attend the staff meeting in my supervisors place, I was amazed at how much “action” stuff was discussed but that never made it to our ears! I made it my duty to share as much information as possible, without breaking any trusts, rules, or regulations as I believed that my co-workers were as interested in knowing “what was going on in the organization and why” as I was. I was correct and have worked for the last 30 years of my leadership journey to make it happen wherever I was leading.
I firmly believe that a key element of a happy workforce is an informed workforce.
“To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful.” ~ Edward R. Murrow
How we get and share information, is critical to the information needs of our subordinates. As a leader, it is critical that our subordinates, followers, and co-workers have trust in us and trust in what we communicate. It is imperative that we do not share information that is less that truthful or not factual. If you make an error in transmitting information that is not correct or untrue, immediately fix the problem! Often times I found that it is best to over-communicate in this situation so others know you recognize the importance of the error and above all, that you value truthfulness and transparency.
We must always remember that information is power within an organization and in human interactions and there will always be those who restrict access to information for their own purposes. I am not a fan of these types of people and keeping them from disturbing the information flow is important for the rest of the organization. In a couple of my leadership roles, I informed outside my normal chain of authority and responsibility to insure others knew the information they needed to be successful and to help the larger organization excel. Remember that an informed workforce is a happy workforce.
In my later years of leadership, I took a much more aggressive role in information distribution. I did this to ensure the wisest possible distribution of information and also to maximize the delivery methods to hit the many different styles of receivers that we have in our 21st century organizations.
I posted to websites, delivered via video segments, wrote news articles, held all-calls, and used large group-targeted email messaging. If I was still actively leading in an organization today I would go after Twitter, Facebook, and many of the social media channels. Everyone seems to have a favorite way of sending and receiving their information and effective communicators must consider them all.
I remember a subordinate complaining one time that I had not passed some important information to the workforce about an upcoming policy change. I had passed it via a news article, as well as in a unit-wide distribution email. He told me he did not read his email and did not care for my news articles. I had missed his favored methods of receiving communications which were face to face messages and information posted on a bulletin board in the breakroom. I added the bulletin board communication medium to my delivery methods and I looked for him more frequently when I was out in the work areas for a face to face interaction. If you are sending messages and subordinates and others are not receiving them, you are not communicating!
“Regardless of the changes in technology, the market for well-crafted messages will always have an audience.”— Steve Burnett, The Burnett Group
I always enjoyed an information medium I titled, JETBLAST, for specific topics, areas of interest, or when I desired to provide more context about an upcoming policy change, program decision, or other leadership purpose. I always kept these at one page or shorter and provided multiple paths to contact me if more information was needed.
Effective leadership communication in the 21st century is a full contact and broad-spectrum activity. I have provided a few examples for you to consider if you are not already doing them, to insure everyone is receiving the information they need and desire. I encourage you to consider being an over-communicator, rarely did I ever hear someone say that I had given them too much information; I always heard from those who felt I did not.