In the past several weeks, managers I work with have told me that people in their organizations are still fearful despite the fact they have seen an improvement in business in the last year. So what is driving this fear?
Fear results primarily from three sources:
- Uncertainty about the organization’s direction and the potential impact on a person’s position
- Punishing people for making mistakes when they take initiative
- A boss or other senior leadership person who uses fear as a tool to run their area of influence
In all cases, the result tends to be the creation of an aversion to risk taking. Everyone is afraid to say or do what they need to in order to do the best job possible. They play it safe. Then one day, everyone wakes up, finds they can’t keep good people or the business has fallen into mediocrity and it is in a death spiral.
Uncertainty about the organization’s direction is the easiest to deal with. The answer….communicate with your people. Now wasn’t that easy? A well thought out communications strategy is THE best way to effectively drive communication. Don’t do it in a haphazard way. Sit down, strategize and develop a well layered approach using multiple types of communication. By doing so, you make sure everyone hears the message multiple times and in different medium. Use the following list and you will cover 95% of what needs to be covered without having some big fancy system that looks great but wastes time and probably doesn’t get thru to employees anyway.
Managers and leaders at all levels need to get out in the cube factory or on the plant floor and start talking with people daily…you will hear concerns and be able to address them
- Have an open door so people come in and ask questions
- Hold departmental meetings that provide a consistent message, a forum for ideas and a place to bring up concerns about the functioning of the department
- Develop regular postings and updates using e mail, company intranet or written notices…yes…written notices still exist!
A quick note on meetings. Everyone thinks that when I mention meetings that it is some long drawn out event. Only if you let them be long and drawn out! They can range from 5 minutes to an hour depending on what you want to accomplish. Frankly…90% of the meetings that last an hour or more are just people rambling on in my experience. Keep them short, sweet and to the point. The goal of every meeting should be educating people and generating actions that drive results! Information and education will eliminate fear…and drive understanding of what it takes the business to succeed. Both of which reduce turnover and improve how the business operates as well. RETENTION DOES NOT EXIST IN A VACUUM…IT HELPS TO DRIVE ORGANIZATIONAL SUCCESS!
This is the meat and potatoes. Anything beyond these two points is pure gravy. When you get information out and educate your people you will virtually shut down the negative influence of the internal grapevine. By doing so you eliminate speculation, uncertainty, and self-serving communication. When you do that…you have just significantly reduced several major sources of FEAR. The beautiful thing about this approach…..even if you are only a supervisor or manager…you can do most of these things in your “sphere of influence.” So even if the organization chooses not to do some of these things you can still make an impact!