If It Weren’t for People, This Job Would be Easy!

In the fall of 2015, Clair Cain Miller wrote a terrific article in the New York Times titled “What You Learned in Preschool is Crucial at Work.”  Ms. Miller lays out the case that no matter how much technology is involved in the workplace, we still need social skills to be effective.  I would argue that much the same is true about a middle managers need for effective communications skills.  Introducing technology in the workplace is critical, but it is not a substitute for effective interpersonal communications.

Leaders are always adding tools and techniques to their personal toolkit.  Well conceived tools can make a substantial difference in how effectively you communicate as a leader.  Here are a few we’ve run across in the last few years.

One tactic is team huddles. For the life of a project, get the team together regularly for a brief informal meeting – it could be a stand-up meeting or a quick conference call. It’s meant to be an intense and productive meeting where information is shared, actions are agreed upon, and deadlines are set.  Consider huddling where there are not chairs – no need to get too comfortable.

Another great tool is something I call a “5-15.” This is a periodic written report to the team and leadership. It should take no more than fifteen minutes to write and no more than five minutes to read. Any format – a document, an email, a slide deck – will work. It’s a way to keep people up to date without being a time killer.

A method a lot of leaders use to keep track of what’s happening in the trenches is one-over-ones. The idea is to set up a regular meeting with your direct reports, and with the people who work for your direct reports. You’ll learn what’s happening a couple of levels down from your ivory tower, plus it will give you an opportunity to share your vision. It will be well worth your time.

Also think about unique forums that might work in your organization’s culture. In my old firm, we had “donuts with the director.” People would show up and brainstorm ideas, giving the director an idea of what was going on in the company. Open your mind to the possibilities for your company.  Your objective should be a constant drum beat of pertinent and timely information that keeps the team focused on their business objectives.

Technology is critical – but not sufficient!

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