As leaders, we are constantly having conversations with our team; some conversations are casual and some conversations deliver direction. Recently, I was asked how I deliver messages that generate action within my team. I honestly had to think about it for a minute. This episode is the result of that thoughtful “minute” as I walk you through how I deliver direction to my team where I expect action.
For me, the first thing I have to do is define the situation. Is this a business growth situation or a fire? Defining the situation sets the tone for how I deliver the message and everything I do thereafter. So let me walk you through how I handle both of those.
A growth situation allows me to schedule a meeting, present the idea to the team, and give time for them to provide feedback on the front end. Why do I do it that way? Because the second piece I have to tackle as a leader is knowing my team.
How does each person on my team want to be led? As the leader, I’m responsible for knowing that and leading in that way. Understanding that some people need no details but a deadline, some need all of the steps, some need time to think it through, and some need time to talk it through, I have to present the business growth message in a way that allows for all of that. Why? Because I want team buy-in. So how do I deliver on all of that?
I schedule the meeting. I talk through the project, the whys, and I set expectations. “I want an email or a phone call with questions, suggestions, or confirmation you are on board by X date.” This those who need time to think it through that time. It also presents the option to communicate with me to those that need that communication pathway.
Everyone has to communicate with me by the deadline I set, even if it’s just an email that says “I’m on board.” I establish and expect 100% communication from everyone by the deadline.
I establish a follow-up meeting date and I share that date with them on the front end so they know when we are getting back together to finalize the plans and start executing on them. (No surprises for my people who don’t like surprises.). And then I have to be the leader that has time available on my calendar to respond to those emails and calls, listen, answer questions, and be open to feedback.
When the next meeting rolls around, I present the overall strategy we have come up with based on everyone’s comments and feedback, and I expect the team to move forward and execute based on the established timeline. Action is now expected and because I have respected each person and their needs, they go execute.
Now, if this is a business fire situation, I don’t allow for feedback on the front end. There isn’t time for that in a fire, which I define as a one-off rare situation. I provide clear, stepwise direction, I explain the whys, and I ask for immediate execution. I clarify that this is direction, not suggestion, and that action must be taken as I have outlined it. I establish the feedback discussion after the problem has been solved by calling a COE (correction of errors) meeting so we can learn how to deal with the same situation better in the future.
In the initial discussion, I clarify the 2-3 reasons why I would need immediate feedback that should stop our action. For example, if the plan I presented to them is going to damage the brand, the customers, or is a legal issue, stop the action and push back. Otherwise, go execute and save the process improvement feedback for the COE meeting. (I’m assuming my plan doesn’t put them in harm’s way either or I would add that as the 4th reason to give immediate feedback.)
Your challenge today is to think about how you deliver messages to your team. What is at least one new tactic you can apply to your next meeting?