In this and 3 subsequent blog entries, I’m expanding on the “5 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” I outlined in a recent article.
The second law focuses on open communications; too often, usually in the misplaced interest of correctness or conflict-avoidance, we tap-dance around topics, subjects, and even direction. We assume — often incorrectly — that someone “knows what we mean,” though we didn’t come out and say it.
Law #2. If you want something specific done, say so specifically, using clear, plain language. Employees, generally, have some difficulty doing their basic jobs; adding “mind-reading” to their description is just plain unfair.
No hints, implications, or innuendos. Say what you want, and use English! Directness counts.
I was recently doing some coaching with a client executive who was lamenting the poor “listening skills” of his Operations VP. Seems he had told the VP that one of his director-level staffers was not fully competent, and that the VP should “do something about that person.”
3 days later, that VP fired that director. My client executive was shocked — he told me, “I told him to do something with her, you know, like coach, train, or develop. Maybe even warn her of her performance.” He said, “I didn’t tell him to fire her…”
The VP, of course, simply said, “The boss said ‘do something with her, so I did.”
Not really… I don’t need to tell those of you reading this the difficulty in replacing an experienced mid-level manager in a specific industry. Especially without even making an effort to change her performance or behavior in some way.
Of course, the senior executive felt his comments were sufficient… obviously, they were not. English would have prevented this misunderstanding… simply telling the VP that he should “improve her performance or behavior” would have been sufficient; perhaps even simply asking the VP what he’s done to work with the director would have jogged a reasonable conversation.
Instead, a miscommunication — caused solely by incomplete/indirect language — has created yet another “situation” at the company.
As if we didn’t already have enough to do, we go out creating challenges to deal with.
So, like the doctor when the patient says, “Doc, it hurts when I do ‘this,’ and the Doc says simply, “Stop doing that.”
Stop doing that.