I regularly find myself wishing that people could get to “the truth of it” more often than they do. In organizations, there is an overabundance of hidden agendas, talking around things, not getting to the point, sidebar conversations and reluctance to address things directly. Much of this comes down to manipulation – truth does not serve someone’s purpose – or fear- if you speak the truth, you may get burned.
Of course there is risk in speaking the truth, but organizations could create cultures and environments that minimize this risk. In doing so, they will find that efficiency and collaboration increases. What are some ways to advance a message that truth is welcome? Develop some guidelines for positive communication. I found the book Crucial Conversations to have good advice on how to communicate positively on sensitive subjects. Do not admonish or penalize team members for speaking the truth. Expose manipulative action and agendas and let team members know they are not welcome.
In many organizations, these are huge changes and blithely telling the truth without a supportive culture does have risks. Start slowly and go step by step. If you can get upper management’s attention on this, do it. Cultivate a truthful culture for your own team. Start in non-threatening ways. For example, creating a safe environment for honest feedback.
There is wisdom in the phrase that the truth shall set you free. Go for “the truth of it” in your organization.
1. Take the time to thoroughly prepare and organize any meeting.
2. Get input on the agenda from participants prior to the meeting. Ask for suggestions on efficiencies.
3. Limit meetings to no more than 90 minutes. If more time is needed, schedule a series of meetings.
4. Start on time and state the goal and desired results for the meeting, as you start.
5. Begin the meeting with a 30 second “check in” from each participant to gauge the energy of participants.
6. Follow the timeline on the agenda. If more time is needed on an agenda item, readjust the timeline or table for later discussion.
7. Rotate the “facilitation” of meetings by having one participant track the timing on the agenda.
8. Halfway through the meeting, ask participants for a 30 second statement on how the meeting is going and to constructively and briefly suggest efficiencies. Adjust accordingly.
9. Ten minutes before the scheduled close of the meeting, wrap up and identify action items resulting from the meeting.
10. Send a follow up e mail to all participants after the meeting and thank them.
Robert Pozen has written an article “They Work Long Hours but What About Results?” that raises an interesting issue for managers. Pozen writes about work environments where people are acknowledged for late hours and working weekends, but efficiency often goes unrewarded. He recommends rather than counting the hours worked, that you judge success by the results produced. He offers good advice for employees to communicate their results to their managers so that “face time” is not their primary measure.
How do you measure your team’s work? Do you tend to equate long hours in the office with dedication? Do you have biases favoring those who are in the office after hours? The 21st century work world is nimble, agile and demands fast, high quality results. Efficiency thrives in this world. Face time is an outdated notion and best relegated to the lower tier of your success measures.
Efficiency and productivity are as important in coaching as they are in other areas of your work. How do you maintain an environment where members of your team feel free to communicate, but efficiency and productivity are also honored?
Clearing is a process by which you create a space for the person being coached to release intense emotions or lines of thought that can inhibit their moving forward. The principle here is that if strong emotions are pushed down, they will interfere with the success of the coaching. Clearing involves allowing the person being coached to release emotions or “get things off their chest” for a specified period of time, with the agreement that once done, the coaching will proceed. In my experience, clearing works very well. You are acknowledging that emotions are present and that they need to be expressed. Usually, I give the process five to ten minutes. In rare cases, someone wants to go on. Then, I suggest that they identify a specific way they can release the emotions and commit to doing so, after the coaching is completed. If they cannot move into the coaching, we reschedule for another time.
Creating space for clearing is a coaching skill that acknowledges both that emotions are present and that you have a desire to move forward towards your goals.
As a manager, your work can be a long distance run at short distance speeds. Can you handle both? Sometimes you have to be ready to. Each, though, has differing demands. A short distance manager is ready to go at high speed and efficiency for short distances. A long distance manager needs both endurance and speed.
If your focus is on short distance managing, say for example, managing a customer response team, the key is to be flexible, ready to go at any moment, able to give it your all for short periods of time and able to make good decisions quickly. If your focus is on long distance managing, say in a research program, the key is to be able to get the data you need to go the distance, to have the ability to plan effectively, to motivate your team to keep going and to get the best end result.
Most likely, your work demands a bit of both long and short distance managing. Taking some time to analyze your work in light of these analogies could help you hone your skills and strategies and run a better race.