Overcommunicate Until People Roll Their Eyes
We live in uncertain times. When people lack clarity about the future, they look to public leaders to reduce their anxieties and give them a sense of hope and optimism.
On a smaller scale, when organizations change in response to marketplace differences, team members experience the same feelings of concern and worry. They turn to team leaders to honestly explain what is happening and why.
In such moments, the best leaders step up and provide more information and answers, and make themselves more available to discuss what they believe. In short, the best leaders overcommunicate.
At every chance, they communicate what they know, what they don’t know, and what they are committed to doing about it. These leaders recognize that the most important key to improving team communication is the belief that it is important to communicate in the first place.
By continually repeating the best answers and conclusions known at the moment and taking questions from any quarter, leaders encourage team members to rise above their concerns and fully engage the present reality.
Once engaged, team members align on issues and solutions and help to keep the information flowing. Just when leaders think everyone gets it, they rinse and repeat, overcommunicating until team members roll their eyes in surrender. Who knew sounding like a broken record would turn out to be a critical leadership skill?
When leaders don’t overcommunicate during uncertain moments, something has to fill the void. In the absence of information, people make it up. Once rumors, conspiracy theories, and dire predictions take hold of an organization, it is nearly impossible for leaders to recover the rationality to understand what is really going on.
The only way to prevent the rumor mill from defining the state of the organization is for leaders to understand their responsibility in creating clarity when less of it exists. Remember this warning (apocryphally attributed George Bernard Shaw): “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”