Something has happened at your business and you are the last one to know about it.
Another problem and it is logic that you complain because things did not come out as you had expected. And even worse, had you known about that situation before, it could have been solved or it could have been attenuated.
But now it´s too late.
Withholding information about a problem or a mistake can be common ground among employees depending on how you interact with them.
Some time ago, a business owner who is a friend of mine commented on a shocking situation he experienced and which made him open his eyes.
He arrived at his office in the morning, as usual, only to find out that one of his star employees had resigned.
He was the last one to know about that.
This was an employee he trusted and who had left without warning.
My friend could not stop wondering want had gone wrong, not because the employee had left, but because that employee and everyone surrounding him knew about the resignation news days in advance except him. And if this situation had been kept away from his ears until the last minute, how much more was being currently hidden by his team.
It is not a pleasant feeling to know that business problems are being kept out of sight from you but it can be quite common.
Lack of trust, fear of reaction, poor communication can lead to this unfortunate result.
What you can do
Starting to reverse this state can take some weeks but it is never too late to start.
By focusing on these points you will be on the road to establishing a better communication path with your staff:
- Let your employees know that they will make mistakes and you expect them to happen, at some time. Even when you have very focused people, a mistake will happen at least once, we are humans!
- Be a listener, be open to what people have to say and let them provide a solution or work together in teams (or with you) on a solution to the problem that arises.
- Create a safe environment to talk so as to encourage people to bring up issues that need to be addressed. People will try to hide the mistake because of fear, nobody wants to make mistakes and work reputation can be damaged. It is your job to make room for honest conversations where you can work on solutions together.
Watching your Reactions
- A negative reaction from your side to mistakes and hurdles (which by the way, are part of any business) will make people doubt if they tell you about a troublesome issue or keep hiding it.
- Deal with people in a sensible way. If you are too strict they will probably hide facts and information from you. Nobody likes to be scolded.
- Value and praise honest and timely communication. Resist the urge to react negatively. After all, there will be always problems arising but you want to know about them sooner rather than later along the road.
This means honest and good communication.
- If you tend to have a conversation with employees only when something serious arises, maybe it is time to start planning on having regular meetings so as to catch problems before they happen. Scheduling a short group meeting to talk about what is going on in the business and where you need support and to also allow room for employees to communicate their concerns will facilitate the habit of listening and speaking up about issues to be addressed.
- Encourage different opinions and useful information sharing within your team.
- Walk the talk. By sharing how the business is going and what objectives you have for the year, you are opening to a conversation with your team. Show honesty if you are looking to receive honesty. Your expectations and how the business is moving also affects your teams work.
A strong leader will be able to build an environment where speaking up feels safe.
Acknowledging honest communication will also give an example to an entire team that it is worth to bring up issues that don´t feel quite right so that they can be solved on time.
Problems need to show up in the early stages, not when there is no longer a possible solution or they have become far more complex.
What will you start applying today to encourage your team to openly discuss business problems with you?