Taking Steps Toward Leadership–communicate!

A great deal of miscommunication happens when the person in charge thinks he’s the only one that really knows what’s going on and what should be done.  We get together in committee meetings and decide on an agenda after we assemble.  We make great strides in planning and organization, but don’t assign people to head the projects.  The next meeting, we rehash what we covered before and nothing has been done between meetings.  The person in charge throws up his hands and does it himself.  Meanwhile the others throw up their hands and do it themselves and we have duplication of effort.  The other scenario is that the others know that the person in charge will be doing it anyway and they go home and have a beer and let him do it.  Communication to get things done is simple, but it isn’t easy.

In the beginning, we work from a goal setting session.  Part of the SMART goals is to set the time.  These things need to be done before the next meeting.  That’s the problem with the SMART model–it’s easy to apply on a personal level, but difficult on a team level.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time bound (Trackable)

Where does it say:  Delegatable? Accountable? Someone has to decide who does what in order to get the ball rolling.

One manager I worked for in fast food used to use the words, “We need to…” a lot.  We translated that into “Someone needs to…”  especially if that meant not the manager.  Most of the suggestions she gave involved very unpleasant work.  She had never been seen doing anything unpleasant, so we knew she was intending one of the assistant managers or co managers to handle it.  Another manager I had in the finance industry used to have these 1 hour meetings that lasted about 2 1/2 hours where he’d try to motivate us to have better customer service and faster response times.  He never had any specific training or suggestions, just motivation.  Time would pass, nothing would change, and then there’d be another stupid meeting covering the same exact subjects in the same way.  The one thing we could count on with the finance manager was that he’d try to do everything himself.  You know the saying, “Jack of All trades, master of none?”  Well he was the epitome of that.  Everything would go off the rail and he’d blame his crew for not stepping up.

I confess, I was a manager like that.  My crew was supposed to make sure that all the clubs in their areas were sustaining and thriving.  I didn’t show them how.  I didn’t step in because I figured I’d done it without the Division leader holding my hand, so they could do it too.  They, on the other hand, assumed that I would do everything since I had an opinion on everything.  So of Course nothing got done.  I didn’t talk to them much, they didn’t talk to me much, and the clubs just drifted along.  I know what the Jack manager feels like though.  I stand up and tell the crew to do stuff and how I want it done,  and they don’t care and don’t show any initiative.  Stuff needs to get done, so I do it.  If it doesn’t get done, it’s because nobody wanted it to succeed in the 1st place.  Nya nya.

I was in charge of an Ice Cream Social at my church.  I put up a sign up sheet for ice cream and goodies and yard games.  No one signed up.  How did I feel?  No one’s interested; I’m wasting my time.  I will go ahead and make all the ice cream and if there are no goodies, who cares?  Then we will no longer have a stupid ice cream social and no one will miss it.  And I stomped around self-righteously.  On the night of the social, we had 16 types of ice cream (11 home made!), and a whole table of cookies and bars and desert stuff, and we had a great crowd.  People stepped up.  It was better to ASK them on an individual basis than to put up a sign up sheet.

I am constantly trying to improve my communications skills, but some of this expertise is not in just talking to people, it’s in knowing whom to ask and when and how.  I have to allow people to feel important and acknowledge their contributions.  Ask not demand.

I am now the president of a prestigious advanced club.  I laid out my vision for the club and stomped on some toes.  I had not intention of stomping on toes.  I figured, self righteously, that there were ultra sensitive people in the group and they should wear shoes and not sandals.  How arrogant.  I also asked for feedback about their wants and needs and have heard from ONE person.  They don’t communicate like that.  They communicate in emails and face to face.  I hate mending fences.  (Well, dumdum, don’t break them then!  Ohhhhhhh….)

What’s the takeaway then?  When you are a manager, you have to find out how your crew communicates, THEN work with them on that level.  It’s not easy, but it’s simple.




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