Responses to change occur on a spectrum between emotional and rational. Based on how much experience they have with the particular type of change they are being faced with, they may respond out of fear or out of inquiry.
During the course of any change event, people will change their response type as they learn more. Sometimes they will move from rational to emotional because they suddenly realize there may actually be an impact to their job. Other times (and hopefully usually) they move from emotional to rational as they realize there will be less impact to them than they originally expected.
Knowing where your audience is on this spectrum will allow you to better communicate with them. Never share messages targeted at managing emotion at a rational audience. They will simply see a message that implies they should be concerned and start to wonder why they aren’t. Similarly, rational messages targeting an emotional audience will be completely ignored because it isn’t addressing the concerns that people are feeling.
Communications are the key to successful project outcomes. Effective communications start from understanding not just the audience but the audience’s state of mind. When both components are brought together, you will be in a much better position to drive your change project to a successful conclusion.
Good communications are hard to do. Over communicating can take up all your time. Under communicating can leave your team in confusion.
Figuring out the right line for their team is a manager’s primary job. People need information in order to make good decisions but they also don’t usually need incomplete, possibly wrong or sensitive information.
It is easy as a subordinate to take a lack of information to mean there isn’t a plan. Sometimes there isn’t a plan and you find out only too late. Usually, there is a plan and good reasons for limited information getting out until ready.
Branding is important to getting things done. Personal brands tell you about the nature of the people you are dealing with and how to get things done working with them. Product brands tell you the safety and risk associated with a procurement activity if something were to go wrong. Corporate brands tell you about the team and their goals, objectives and working styles.
Branding can, to a large degree, also be thought of as culture. The Google brand and culture often go hand-in-hand. Same for Apple and Microsoft. Look at the list of best companies to work for and you also encounter many of the best companies to hire.
The brand of your team will let people know when you will be easy or difficult to work with. It will tell them what kinds of projects you will endorse to move forward and which you will push back on. It will tell them what work is prioritized and which is delayed. Ensuring that this branding is clear both internally to your team and externally to your customers is important.
Externally, if you are sending conflicting messages about the type of work you do then you will constantly be stuck dealing with inefficient pre-planning sessions to get people to the right starting point. You will also constantly receive project requests that don’t meet your requirements that you have to send back. This will only lead to wasted time and organizational frustration.
Internally, if your team doesn’t understand the types of projects they are supposed to endorse they can’t be educating and training their customers. Also, at the end of the year, their actions will not have aligned with the team objectives leading to a lesser review or lost personal opportunities.
Branding and culture are ultimately about communication. If you are clear, direct and concise you will be able to position you and your team for increased success. If you leave things open to interpretation life will get a lot messier.
Noise is something that people complain about regularly. In the office, noise is thought of as distracting. In gossip, noise is thought of as inappropriate. In management, noise is considered a nuisance.
However, noise is a key sign that people care. They are actively trying to collaborate, share and find out more information. Noise is the symptom of a workforce that is trying to do better.
Silence is what you need to watch out for. When people stop raising issues to management and simply do the job they are asked to do the culture has declined to such a point that things are about to get much worse. Silence is also very hard to diagnose because it means that issues are no longer being raised and “no news is good news” mentalities start taking over.
Black and white are rarely the only two sides to a discussion. Even when there are only two people involved there are more than just two sides. For each person, they will have opinions and needs that change and shift given the context and timing of the discussion. Thinking in terms of sides is a quick way to consistent misunderstandings.
I was having a discussion with a colleague last week who described one of our conversations as a productive conversation that many may have seen as an argument. At the time we both understood we were trying to solve a problem that neither of us yet had a complete answer to. In the moment we were pushing hard to try and get to a point of alignment and occasionally pushing hard may have seemed harder than necessary to an outside observer.
But to us at the time, we were simply trying to figure out the answer and there was nothing personal in it. We were simply trying to wander around an undefined room to determine where to place the walls and furniture so that we could eventually get down to picking the colors for the walls.
It’s easiest to see this in politics these days where people are defining sides as Republicans vs. Democrats as if there were only two possible answers to moving forward as a nation. There is nothing sillier than taking a large topic and pretending that there are only two answers – left or right, right or wrong, black or white.
Most issues are more like a Rubix cube with several sides that are currently scattered all over the place.
We are used to hearing about team chemistry when it comes to sports. Coaches apply some mystical spell on their team and suddenly everyone is moving in the same direction or no one buys into it and the team falls apart. It’s binary and all about the coach. Sometimes there’s the “on-the-field leader” who is bringing the team together as well but it’s just a branch of the same logic about the coach.
The reality is much messier. Teams aren’t successful simply because of their leader. They are successful because each individual on the team understands the job, strengths and weaknesses of the people around them. They are successful when they pick each other up and play to their collective strengths. They are successful when they can communicate effectively when the “leader” isn’t around.
Simply put, success starts with each person on the team knowing what needs to get done and how they can best do that while taking into account how everyone else is doing the same. There are no duplicated efforts, there are no useless activities, there is no faulty communication, there are no incorrect assumptions.
The job of the leader is to ensure that the team is given an environment to thrive in. No two teams thrive in the same environment because the work and individuals are different each time. Even the same team that was successful in the past can fail in the future if their approach no longer matches the work that needs to be completed.
True leaders understand these variables and can adapt to make it work. They understand that sometimes you need to make your team uncomfortable while other teams you need to hold their hand. The way you treat one member of the team is not the same way you interact with others. There’s planning and thought put into every interaction.
Teams are what get things done. How are you helping build your team to get the right chemistry?
It’s been almost exactly 2 years ago since I last visited one of my favorite concepts of Makers versus Managers. To refresh those unfamiliar with the concept, the idea is that Makers are most productive in 4-hour blocks of free time whereas Managers work best in 30-minute blocks of time. Makers are busy applying thoughts to actions and creating which requires longer periods of time to fall into the right frame of mind, work through what is in front of you and reach a point of productive delivery. Managers deal with many people and tasks that can be more easily broken down into smaller increments of time and measurement allowing them to be more scheduled in their work.
Most people fall somewhere in between these two groups. Most people have some degree of management activities (or dealing with managers) which requires them to break up their day. The worst thing that can happen to these people is to have a 9 hour day of making broken up by 3 short meetings inconveniently spaced out. Having no large blocks of free time is the same as having no productive time at all. A full day of productivity killed by 90 minutes of poorly planned meetings.
There is an interplay between these two groups that is critically important. Managers need Makers and Makers need Managers. Nothing would get done without both ways of thinking but similarly, both groups have the capacity to undermine the other if they don’t plan correctly.
Makers that work in a vacuum can very easily be carried off on their creative side without understanding the drivers from above that will take their work to market. All the productive working time in the world cannot save a product that has no market appeal or driven sales team. Dealing with the occasional Manager day is the cost of long-term success. Planning for those Manager days is how to ensure success. Designating time in advance for short meetings, updates, email, etc and clearly communicating that to the Managers you deal with is the best way to start.
Managers that assume that everyone works like them with meetings and calls back-to-back all day are inadvertently sabotaging the Makers that they interrupt during the course of their work. When your day is meetings and quick responses it can be easy to assume that those you work with do the same. Working with Makers means that you need to know the habits and needs of each individual and work to help them be productive. This may mean holding phone calls for certain times of day or developing 1-bit messages (like a quick text or IM) to see if you get a response.
It all comes back to…….communication! It’s amazing how often that is the solution to the issues I encounter. I have been saved by more “awkward conversations” than by hoping issues simply go away. Awkward conversations are often not awkward at all because it usually turns out both parties feel the same and simply breaking the ice with a simple “Hello” resets that scene.
There is nothing more silly than thinking “I keep meaning to call but it’s been too long and it would be awkward now.” What that thought actually means is “I’d really like to talk to this person but it could be awkward or it could be a great change of pace for both of us to simply see what’s up….and all the more of a pleasant surprise because it’s now unexpected!”