1. Making controversial announcements without doing groundwork first
Any controversial decision can engender rumors, anxiety, and resistance. So rather than announcing a controversial decision to an entire group, prep people one-on-one. Learn who will object, and why.
Decisions about change are the most charged — reorganizations, changing goals, andthe departure of key employees create uncertainty, and uncertainty generates anxiety.
To forestall anxiety, open a dialogue with the other person. Put a name to the problem: "This reorganization means we'll be doing some things differently, and that makes some people apprehensive." Then address the concerns raised in response to your statement:
• Is the other person uncertain about thefuture? Share the scenario you expect to unfold.
• Does the reorganization jeopardize a project? Share plans for keeping it afloat.
• Demonstrate that you get it, keeping in mind that you can address emotion better with body language than with words. Make sure yours conveys concern and empathy.
Some lies or partial truths are well-intentioned. Certain topics must remain confidentialwhile they're under discussion. But be careful how you keep secrets. If people know you've lied, you will lose their trust forever. A start-up company's controller watched the CFO lie to members of other departments and subsequently began to doubt the CFO's sincerity. He began looking for a new job with a boss whose intentions he could trust. In that instance, lying cost the company a valuableemployee.
Rather than lie, train yourself to respond, "I'm not free to comment" or "I can't answer that fully right now," when asked about confidential or sensitive topics. Consistency is important. Warren Buffett never discusses his investments, even with shareholders. As a result, his silence on a particular deal gives away nothing.
3. Ignoring the realities of power
Surprised that you neverhear bad news until it's too late? Don't be. The more power you have, the less you'll hear about problems. It's human nature: problems are filtered and softened as they ascend the corporate hierarchy, with each messenger seeking to soften the blow. If you want an honest assessment of a problem, seek out bad news. Welcome it. And when it comes, show your appreciation.
Conversely, messages aremagnified as they travel down the hierarchy. If you look pained during a presentation, everyone will "know" you hated the presentation (or worse — the presenter). No one will think to blame the pastrami sandwich you ate too fast before you came to the meeting. Jokes are especially dangerous. When the managing director of a consulting firm joked, "If you're not here Sunday, don't bother coming inMonday," his project team wasn't sure what to do. One said, "We were pretty sure he was joking, but. . ."
Put a lid on rumors by using plain, simple language. End meetings by reviewing your reactions and next steps. "I value your analysis, Chris. The sales trend is disturbing. Let's follow up on Wednesday."
4. Underestimating your audience's intelligence
It's tempting to gloss over issues because"people won't understand." Why explain a reorganization when you can simply say, "Here's the new org chart"? But that's a cop-out. Front-line employees may not be masters of organizational design, but they deserve to know the rationale behind changes that affect their lives. If you think your people won't understand something, remember it's your job to explain it to them.
Many managers like to glossover problems when motivating their teams. But if things aren't going well, those teams are probably well aware of the problems. In fact, they've probably known about them longer than you have. Rather than avoiding the situation, enlist their skills in finding solutions.
5. Confusing process with outcome
In goal-setting, compensation, and evaluation, it's easy to confuse process with outcome....