Direct statements

We all have things we wish we could come right out and say, but often don’t for our own rea­sons. We may want to pre­serve a rela­tion­ship, not hurt someone’s feel­ings, or reveal what we tru­ly think. We beat around the bush hop­ing that they might pick up what we’re try­ing to say. Usu­al­ly, this strat­e­gy does not work.

The prob­lem is that we want to com­mu­ni­cate some­thing but we have fear or uncer­tain­ty in our head or heart. We feel a sense of pause and we don’t say what we wish we could. So we either say noth­ing at all, aka silence, or say a bunch of stuff to light­en the blow.

Adopting a shared language

One of the tools that can help us grow as lead­ers and with our teams is adopt­ing a shared lan­guage. What’s cool about work­ing with a small group is that you can set rules for that spe­cif­ic set of peo­ple. While you can’t con­trol every­thing in your life, orga­ni­za­tion, or larg­er struc­ture, you can con­trol your direct cir­cle of influ­ence. An easy way to do that is to devel­op a shared lan­guage that your group under­stands and can use when need­ed.

No one is going to assign you the task to “devel­op a shared lan­guage.” This is some­thing that you must take own­er­ship of and make hap­pen the next time you gath­er. It’s kind of like a more seri­ous ver­sion of an inside joke. Your group gets what you’re say­ing, but if you weren’t a part of that group, you might be a lit­tle con­fused. Of course, as your group grows, it’s impor­tant to share the shared lan­guage, just like a nice friend will explain the inside joke to you.

Shared language solutions

Brene Brown has a phrase in Dare to Lead that goes like this: “clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” This is kind of a mantra or anthem to say that unclar­i­ty is not going to be tol­er­at­ed. By beat­ing around the bush, you may think you are being kind, when in real­i­ty, your lack of clar­i­ty is dam­ag­ing the group. Bet­ter to be clear about what you think than bury your true thoughts deep down inside you.

Hen­ry Cloud in Bound­aries for Lead­ers notes that a For­tune 500 busi­ness uses the phrase “just give me the 10%.” This is a way of say­ing, “can you please skip the BS?” In a sit­u­a­tion where some­one is obvi­ous­ly hedg­ing around an issue, you can give them the free­dom to be clear and kind by ask­ing them to give you the 10%, or what is real­ly on their mind.

The David Allen Com­pa­ny used to say “Silence means we are OK with what’s going on.” Silence can be a ter­ri­ble thing to deal with in lead­er­ship and in rela­tion­ships. But who said silence has to be mis­er­able? Declar­ing that every­one is going to agree on what silence means helps every­one. This comes with an implic­it expec­ta­tion that peo­ple WILL speak up if they have an issue. Oth­er­wise, the silence com­mu­ni­cates approval and sup­port. The trick is to prac­tice this and to ask peo­ple to speak up, oth­er­wise, their silence com­mu­ni­ties they are OK with what’s hap­pen­ing.

Communicate early and often

I’ve expe­ri­enced it and I’m sure you have too. You’re get­ting close to a dead­line for a project and you’re wait­ing on 12 essen­tial details to com­plete every­thing. 

You’re so close to the dead­line that hav­ing any con­ver­sa­tions or com­mu­ni­ca­tion will KEEP you from com­plet­ing the project

So what do you do? 

You skip them... and get to work. 

Seri­ous­ly though... who has time to com­mu­ni­cate ear­ly and often when you have a dead­line to meet? 

It’s eas­i­er to go silent and com­mu­ni­cate less when there’s a big event or dead­line right around the cor­ner. How­ev­er, one of the strate­gic behav­iors I want all of us to con­sid­er as lead­ers is this:

We communicate EARLY and OFTEN.

Part 1: Com­mu­ni­cat­ing EARLY

This means we talk about stuff while we can still make plen­ty of adjust­ments. When you com­mu­ni­cate late, there’s often no time left to make changes. On Nov 13, I wrote about how we plan in advance so that ‘lack of time’ is nev­er an issue. Around CFC, we don’t want to fall into the “I didn’t have enough time” trap. That’s not a good excuse! By com­mu­ni­cat­ing ear­ly, we can keep each oth­er in the loop before it is too late.

When you com­mu­ni­cate ear­ly... you can let your team know about stuff while there’s still time to fig­ure out key details and oth­er solu­tions. 

When you com­mu­ni­cate ear­ly... you allow time for prop­er plan­ning. See my post from Nov 13 for more plan­ning tips and tricks: https://public.3.basecamp.com/p/HonuXbbxWwdGMvnDsXg1nJXG

Part 2: Com­mu­ni­cat­ing OFTEN

This just means we’re in the pat­tern of a con­sis­tent con­ver­sa­tion — not a irreg­u­lar mono­logue

So far my per­son­al attempts to achieve this have been:

  • Month­ly vol­un­teer train­ing meet­ings (Sat­ur­days) 
  • Weekly(ish) posts here in Base­camp (like this one)

But I’m sure there’s more I could do and that we could all do... 

Next steps...

  • What, if any­thing, do you have to com­mu­ni­cate that would be bet­ter for your team to know SOONER than lat­er?
  • How often have you com­mu­ni­cat­ed? 
  • What can we do bet­ter to make sure com­mu­ni­ca­tion is hap­pen­ing EARLY and OFTEN?