Categories
Leadership

Alignment

There are lots of ways to set goals, and lots of ways to get going on achieving them. It’s pretty much the same approach when you are setting your own personal goals as to when you are setting those for your organisation. The difference is in the circle of people you consult with (more professional overlap for the org goals!), and then how widely you share them.

Sharing your personal goals helps you commit to actually making them happen. It’s not vital, but it’s certainly useful. Sharing your org goals is vital! It’s the only way they are going to happen, and it’s the only way that people will know what you are trying to achieve as a group.

Banging them in a slide deck and calling it a day is not going to cut it. That doesn’t give the alignment that you need to have everyone pulling in the same direction to chase down these big goals.

Instead, you need to get your comms plan in gear, figure out the arenas you can sell your goals in. Present them to people, tell them why these particular goals matter and why they are more important than other things we could be doing. Take questions and answer them honestly. Record some sessions for people who are on leave. Share them in Slack, put them on the Intranet (woo!) and finally point people to the deck!

Then repeat this, and go again. Talk about progress towards the goals, share the successful steps towards them and keep them in people’s minds.

This multi-channel approach might get decent visibility and some good buy-in, and the repetition will help, but you won’t actually know how aligned people are to these goals.

Ask them!

As a leader you’ve got more context, you know what’s going on and you have more background than most people in the org. It’s all obvious to you, but it might not be to the Individual Contributors doing the work.

So, ask some questions:

  • What is our top goal for the year?
  • Why are we going after this?
  • What are we not going to do?

Look for patterns in what comes back. What’s missing, what’s wrong, what has actually landed with people? Take these themes, then use them to rework your comms. Address the misconceptions, dive deep into the gaps and celebrate the good understanding.

You build alignment with clear messaging, repetition and rework.

It’s not a one-and-done deck and presentation, and if you think it is you are destined to fail.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Everything Old is New Again

In a large enough organisation, it is easy to lose the thread of where we are now. Great practices and processes can be lost as people move on to different roles or focus on new things. As you grow, people joining the company will bring their own experiences forwards, without necessarily understanding the history of what has gone before.

This is another classic communication conundrum, having people tread the same ground multiple times, solve problems that have already been solved or go chasing off in multiple different directions is incredibly wasteful. What can you do to reduce the likelihood of this happening?

Document the good stuff! People are unreliable over time, so write it down if it’s good. Give access to people who are interested in the specific topic, and make sure it’s easy to edit and keep up to date. This is great for repeatable processes like hiring, and it’s super good for recording decisions, especially when you choose not to do something.

Next, make sure there’s someone who has responsibility for the thing, and time to manage it. For small stuff, that might be part of a role, but again, as you grow you might find it’s important enough to hire someone, or build entire teams around it. I’ve taken onboarding practices from an ad-hoc group of volunteers, to a defined part of people’s roles, to the entire job of a small team. This gives amazing continuity and saved us from re-inventing the wheel multiple times.

Then you need to communicate it. Remind people where things are stored. Ask them if they have seen the docs, or talked to the people who are already doing the thing. Connect them up. If someone is keen to improve a recruitment practice, hook them into the groups already working in that space.

If people are new and want to investigate a product area that’s previously been discounted, then accelerate them by giving them the state of the art. Get them to answer the question “What’s changed?”, and they’ll save massive effort on getting to where you have already been, and be well prepared for any long-serving nay-sayers they meet on the path.

Also, make sure the people who are already doing a thing are easy to find and noisy about what they do. This is when you broadcast, that’s where you share your wins on the public channels. That’s an excellent use of the wiki, intranet or company Slack. Help people find you early, and you don’t crush their dreams when you tell them that you’ve already solved that problem.

It’s poisonous to leave people solving problems you’ve already solved, it’s the quickest way to waste massive sums of money and great tracts of time. Build that organisational memory, and propel people to the novel and new.

Innovate in fresh areas to drive on to great success.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Point to Point

Different messages need different types of communication. Big broadcasts will not always cut it, sometimes you need to think about when it’s right to use methods when there are only a couple of people in the conversation.

Going point-to-point is great when the conversation is nuanced, any time that you need to discuss something in a back and forth way. That might be having a difficult conversation about development, or when you need to discover more information before making a decision.

It’s also great if the topic only affects a few people, or if there’s an outsized impact of a change on a small group of people. For example, if you are going to make a change to how a process is run, it’s almost certainly going to be a broadcast message. However, if there are a few people who will be negatively impacted, you should communicate that directly and personally in an individual setting. This is especially relevant for times when the changes are impacting people slightly differently, you use the capacity for back and forth to understand the impact on them, and make sure you are acknowledging that impact.

You might go point-to-point to build up support for an idea or change before sharing the big broadcast. Similarly to the way you look at people who are negatively impacted, here you look for people who will have an outsized positive change. These will be big supporters, so get them onside before you go public.

Not every communication in your working life will be best served with a Slack message, an email blast or a shout out in the all hands. Look out for times when you need the personal touch, and go point-to-point when the time is right

Categories
Leadership

Communication

There’s not much that tests your communication skills as quickly as building furniture. It’s something that can seem simpler than it actually ends up being. It needs more than one person to do effectively, and those people usually have different levels of experience to bring to the activity.

Firstly, you should read the instructions. Look at all the stages and each detail of those steps. This brings out any assumptions and smooths them over. This first activity starts to balance out those gaps in experience.

Next you arrange your tools and make sure you’ve got everything you need. This lets you agree some terms upfront, building your shared language and ensuring early understanding of term.

Then you talk early, before starting a particular action. You are sharing expectations early, rather than hoping that someone figures out what you want after you’re already straining under the load of a heavy lump of wood. Trying to share meaning in stressful situations is hard, and often just raises the stress.

So, to communicate well you should:

  1. Uncover assumptions early
  2. Agree terms and their meanings
  3. Set expectations before it gets stressful

This wont just help you put furniture together more easily, it’ll make you more effective in any situation where you need to communicate something important.

Categories
Leadership

Communicating Change

When you are attempting to communicate with someone, you need to always hold on to the idea that “it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear”. Once you’ve internalised this, it gives you a chance to build the shared pool of meaning that’s required to communicate something effectively.

Communicating “change” is a whole level beyond this basic interaction. Change brings uncertainty. It will take time, and it will affect a number of people.

With these added complexities, you need to bring another skill to bear. You need to be consistent.

You will have to repeat your message many times, in many formats and to many people. A single broadcast in a single medium will not have the impact you hope for.

If you are communicating change, you will have had more time to get used to the idea, to see the benefits and to see the path forwards. Anyone new to the idea will not have this, so your first announcement will feel like a bolt from the blue.

People will react to this in different ways, excitement, shock, even anger. Be ready to refine your message and to share it in different contexts and mediums, but always hold your consistent points in the front of mind.

When you’re sick of saying it, people are starting to get it, so get your head down, craft your message and give it multiple times with consistent focus.