It has been quite a while since I have blogged on leadership issues. It almost feels like an AA meeting (‘My name is Michael and it has been 3 months since my last blog’). There have been several reasons for not writing, but most of them ring quite hollow and on reflection, sound an awful lot like excuses.
At the end of 2011, I wrote the 15 Leadership Lessons Taught by my Dog, and subsequently expanded and discussed 13 of the lessons. It seemed the best place to star for 2012 would be to finish what I started, and then move into some fantastic new ideas to help leaders meet their needs in 2012.
The 15 Leadership Lessons Taught by My Dog:
1. The team rules need to be understood and applied by all members of the team.
2. You need to protect your team from outside forces.
3. Listening and being present are important to your team.
4. Greet your team members like you are meeting them for the first time every day.
5. Consistency is crucial to trust and understanding.
6. Trust is built over months, not seconds.
7. Learn the things that you shouldn’t do in the team.
8. Remember that each team has different rules to live by.
9. Show respect for your team in ways that they appreciate (licking of feet).
10. Understand the unique behaviour and skill set you bring to the team.
11. Look after your team and they will look after you.
12. Breaks in discipline / performance can’t wait until later to fix.
13. Leading the team is not a half-hearted, part time responsibility.
Lesson 14. The leader needs to communicate and guide the team clearly and precisely.
A late afternoon walk with my dog is similar to a normal day in business – the world is filled with so much noise and distraction. The sound of cars, buses, trams and people and make if difficult enough to think, let alone communicate. In addition to this, my dog Jake gets distracted by all the other things on a walk that distract a dog; trees, sticks, other dogs. Trying to communicate with Jake through all of the noise and distraction can be difficult, especially if I am not clear and direct with my communication. A polite request will be ignored, a light tug on the lead might get his interest if there is no larger distraction (like another dog), raising my voice gets his attention, but should be used for emergencies and for when he does things wrong.
It is not that dissimilar trying to communicate with the people that we work with. Constant email, phone calls, short notice tasks and meetings create a lot of ‘noise’ for us all to deal with day to day. If your communication isn’t timed correctly and delivered in the appropriate way, it will be ignored (in person) or quickly deleted (via email). So what can you do to ensure that you message gets through:
1. Avoid waffle. Time is short, get to the point. (I could expand further, but that would defeat the argument, wouldn’t it?)
2. Plan what you are going to say. Too many emails read like that are a stream of conscious thought – written as the thought comes into the writer’s head and then put to the page. The same can be said for some meetings. Take the time to think what you are going to say and ensure that is actually has a point or outcome you are trying to achieve.
3. Consider your audience and deliver it in language that they understand and appreciate. Too often, communication is pitched too high (too many acronyms or jargon) or too low (treating staff like idiots). Take the time to tailor your message to the group you are talking to or emailing.
4. Pick your time. What is the best time to try and get a message to your group? What is the time that they will be most receptive ie have the time and ability to listen and respond? This is the biggest lesson for Managers and supervisors – effective communication is sent at the time best suited to the listener, not the receiver. Too many emails and meetings are sent / set to suit the needs of the sender, without considering the needs of the receiver. I understand that not every email or meeting can be sent at a time that suits those receiving it – but they don’t have to. Most emails and meetings deal with the mundane.
But for the important communication, the stuff that you really want your people to think about, shouldn’t we make sure that it has the best chance of hitting the mark?
Consider your last team meeting or email to your team. Did you avoid waffle? Did you actually plan what you were going to say and write it for your audience? Was you last meeting timed for you or for your team? Consider the 4 points above to make sure that your communication hits its mark.