How many times have you heard someone say “my manager needs communication training?” I have an undergraduate degree in Communications, another in Organizational Behavior, and a Masters in Business Administration and I don’t even know what that means. But what I have come to realize is that “communication” is often not the problem but lack of alignment is. And, if you PLEAD with your employees, alignment will come.
So, how do you PLEAD? Follow these 5 principles.
Do your colleagues, employees, or partner know what your priorities are? Are you both in agreement? If you have ever been a project manager or in a position when you have had multiple bosses and they don’t agree, you’ve dealt first hand with people not aligned. As a consultant who is often brought in to solve these types of ‘communication’ problems, I often find that employees are not clear on what needs to be done.
Most people want to do the right thing but often don’t necessarily understand what that “thing” is. Have you ever heard a manager say, “I want a better system.” Does everybody agree on what better is? Faster? Cheaper? More Accurate? Clarity around priorities is the first step. Start by sharing your goals and priorities.
What are your limits in spending, decision making, hiring, firing, due dates, etc…? Spend time with your employees talking about where “the line” is. Managers get frustrated with employees if they cross the line but employees think the line is somewhere else. Or, never even knew there was a line. Remember, one person’s best judgment may be another person’s bad judgment so help clarify where the limits are.
Some companies have very clear spending limits that say a manager can spend up to a certain dollar amount. Some are more loose. I do not condone having a limit for every decision because it is necessary to give latitude for employees, especially the more senior team members. However, if there is a limit that should be addressed, then address it.
The stock market, and its underlying stocks rise and fall for many reasons. Why is it when a company announces record earnings of 15 cents the stock falls? Because the analysts were expecting 18 cents. If you “beat the Streets expectations” then things will go up. If you “come in below expectations” then your stock drops. This is the same for employees. When you ask for a “draft proposal”, what are your expectations of draft? Do you expect it will be ready for print, has been vetted by the appropriate stakeholders, and has all the supporting material? Or, are you looking for something on the back of a napkin?
I was recently talking to a CEO of Global Fortune 10 company and asked him how he wanted his managers to present their plans. He said, “most of the time I want them to give me something that is mostly right” so we can move quickly but “they spend so much more time making sure it is perfect.” In this case he wanted speed over accuracy whereas his management team was giving him accuracy over speed.
When I first started dating my wife, I said, “I drink milk out of the carton and likely won’t change.” I know many of you are thinking this is gross. While you may be right, would it be fair for my wife to be mad at me when I do take a swig from the milk carton? No, because I set those expectations early on. Or, what about the employee that joins a small, start-up technology company and then gets frustrated about working long hours. Didn’t you expect that that was going to happen? Be clear on what your environment is when you interview candidates. People rarely leave when you deliver what you said you’d deliver, they leave when you deliver something different.
We all want, and I’d even go as far as to say need to feel acknowledged or appreciated. What are you doing to acknowledge the people around you? More often than not we don’t do this enough. Early in my career, a friend suggested that I put 5 pennies in my left pocket and every time I appreciate someone during the day, I move a penny to my right pocket. If at the end of the day my left pocket isn’t empty, then I haven’t done my job. Five is easy, try it with 10, 15, 20, or even more.
On the other hand, we also want to know where we can improve.Timing and approach are key to successfully providing feedback. Let people know in a fair and reasonable manner what is working but also make sure you share where things can be more effective.
We make hundreds of decisions everyday starting with the moment the alarm goes off. Shall I hit the snooze button? Do I go to the gym? What shirt will I wear. And the list goes on. These are easy but as the day goes on, the decisions get harder. Do I move forward with this project or do I cancel it? Do I hire that candidate? Have a process for how you analyze your options, get input, and make the right decision. In many cases, the decision may need to be for someone on your team to make the decision. As a manager, I was often asked by one of my team members what they should do around a given issue. I would turn the question around and ask them what they thought should be done. And if they didn’t know, I would ask a few more probing questions then tell them to come to me in the next few days with a recommendation. And most of the time, I’d go with their recommendation. Know what decisions you should make and what decisions others should make.
Sometimes you just have to PLEAD with your employees