Well, these uncertain times have come upon us rapidly, haven’t they?
This COVID-19 pandemic is forcing business leaders to communicate more than ever about how their workplaces function, and make decisions in the moment to adjust to address the current challenges and ever-changing conditions.
As you probably know, the primary focus of my business for the last decade has been improving workplace communication.
Most everyone in most every company has issues with communication and there are so many contexts of it there is no way we can eliminate the challenges with it.
We can only hope to reduce the frequency and impact of the communication mistakes that occur as we become more aware of them and are open to communicating about communicating.
Here are 4 communication approaches every business leader must bring to their workplace immediately:
Transparency – as to what is the current state of the company in terms of its ability to work through the current challenges and come out on the other side. Transparent communication includes financial transparency by providing as much information as you can about the financial status of the company. Airlines are already discussing with transparency the amount of cash they have on hand to weather this storm, which for them may end up being even worse than 9/11. If there isn’t a disaster strategy or business interruption plan in place, there needs to be something developed quickly and communicated transparently to everyone.
Specificity – If you’ve heard me speak on my 7 Deadliest Communication Sins you know that a lack of specificity is an epidemic in our approach to communication. Rarely is it malicious, it is just our lazy, ignorant communication habits. Commit to being specific, and when you think you’re being specific, you’re probably not being specific enough, dig deeper for even more details.
Direct & Candid – this is a cousin of transparency. The number one issue with the current state is that is causing high levels of uncertainty. Uncertainty creates fear and stuck states. The more situational information we have that we can trust the more uncertainty will decrease. But, your people need to hear from you the straight dope. They may not like what they hear but they will at least be able to deal with the real situation.
With this double-axis, four-quadrant Stephen Covey style infographic you can see how important the right approach in your leadership communication is:
- If both Transparency and Specific communication and a Direct & Candid approach is low, people will be paralyzed by uncertainty and fear and be stuck from doing anything productive but wallow in the situation.
- If Transparency and Specific communication is high and a Direct & Candid approach is low, people will be paralyzed by confusion and will be stuck from doing anything productive but wonder what’s going on and what they should do next.
- If Transparency and Specific communication is low and a Direct & Candid approach is high, people will be paralyzed by a lack of trust in what they are being told and won’t be comfortable moving forward by the fear of the unknown repercussions and outcomes will be.
- You want your communication to be high in Transparency and Specificity delivered with a highly Direct, Candid & Respectful approach so that your team will build certainty and a sense of control giving them confidence to think clearly, be creative to find solutions, make decisions and take action on those decisions.
When you communicate as specific as possible with as many details as possible, you will get to a level of transparency people can trust, and when you deliver it in a direct and candid manner you will be lowering the level of uncertainty, providing the highest possible level of certainty in the moment, and providing an opportunity for everyone to begin focusing on what you and they can control.
When you do that it becomes an upward spiral of thinking, feeling, and acting that reinforces the control and certainty people need in times like these.
Be diligent, follow recommended protocols and for those who remember the television series and Hill Street Blues’ Sergeant Phil Esterhaus’s (Michael Conrad) morning roll call catchphrase “Let’s Be Careful Out There!”
All My Best,