“Nobody ever tells me anything around here!”
How many times have we heard that? Or “communication is hopeless in our business, we are like mushrooms, always kept in the dark!”
While I will be the first to admit that we have worked with many leaders who lack communication and in particular storytelling capabilities and experience, and may not prioritise communication or are not skilled in ensuring they are ‘on message’, we rarely work with leaders who intentionally keep people in the dark.
Recently when working on a major acquisition, there were rumblings from across the teams that ‘we don’t know what is going on, no one is telling us anything’, so we investigated the communication forums, channels and initiatives available to the largely centralised organisation. There appeared to be several ways to learn more about the acquisition – CEO Update, intranet updates, toolbox talks, lunch and learn, team briefs, branded newsletter blasts, fortnightly videos – ‘what it means for our function’, the obligatory bathroom and kitchen posters and of course key messages were provided to all leaders to deliver during their standard team meetings. So, why was the “Mushroom Syndrome” so alive and well across the business? My theory – there was resistance, scepticism and almost a laziness from some individual’s about keeping themselves informed. If the information was not delivered in the way I wanted it, by whom I wanted it delivered by, then I did not feel informed!
But where is the responsibility to keep yourself informed?
Communication is two-way, we interpret and we listen, it is also multi-faceted, we can gather enormous amounts of information through questioning, observing, involving ourselves and most simply, reading the available information and actively listening when it is relayed at various forums.
Regardless of position, duration or experience; there is a responsibility to keep yourself informed, some easy options include:
- Be present in meetings and actively listen, if you don’t understand something or require more information, ask a question or follow up
- Allocate time each week to read the content which has been uploaded or emailed
- Volunteer to be a part of projects or focus groups; get involved
- Adopt a growth mindset, instead of assuming you are being kept in the dark, seek information to feed the gap in your knowledge
- Share what you know with others
- If you hear people saying, no one ever tells me anything, ask them “what have you done to keep yourself informed?”
We live in a highly complex, rapidly changing world where the luxury of waiting until all data is available before communicating an outcome is becoming a thing of the past. However the positive of operating in a highly complex, rapidly changing world means there are many times when the unknown is a real opportunity to test, challenge, query and learn – and we do all of this by keeping ourselves informed.
A lesson from early school days – if you don’t know, you need to ask!