Rumor Control and Clear Guidance, pages 261-264
Part Two: Leadership Tactics, 4. Communication B. Rumor Control, C. Clear Guidance (pages 261-264)
B. Rumor Control
If rumors are commonplace within your organization, the first person to look at is yourself as the leader. As the leader, you need to create an environment where rumors do not run rampant. You go about this by sharing information. “So get the word out ahead of the rumors”. It is not easy having to make difficult choices. But as the leader, it is your responsibility to do so. The key is to communicate the reason to your staff. “Be truthful, be direct, and be timely. Get ahead of the rumors by disseminating information as soon as you can when difficult decisions must be made. "The quicker you share the truth of what is going on, the better it will be received and the fewer problems you will have with rumors."
“In a vacuum of information, people will insert their perceptions” is a saying that was spoken to me many years ago when I was a young leader. Additionally, “peoples perceptions are their realities” is another that ties in with the first. As a leader, we must never forget that how our staff perceives a situation is their truth, even if their perception is misguided. The challenge for the leader is to have all of their staff seeing a situation in the same way. To do that, the leader must communicate regularly. Leaders must communicate on the past, present, and future to allow their staff to develop mutual perceptions. By consistently and effectively communicating, the leader not only rids themselves of misguided perceptions but also rid themselves of the possibility of a vacuum of information.
C. Clear Guidance
“If your subordinate leaders or frontline troops aren’t doing what you want them to do, the first person you should check is yourself.” The most common reason for this type of problem is unclear or misaligned guidance. Guidance needs to be simple, clear, and concise. “More guidance does not necessarily make guidance clearer; in fact, more guidance can actually make things more confusing and convoluted.” To ensure that the guidance was understood, do not simply ask your staff if they understand. More often than not, even if there is still confusion, no one will speak up. A better method is to require your staff to summarize the guidance back to you. Lastly, use as many channels as possible to communicate your guidance. This can be by email, a recorded video, face-to-face communication, etc.
“If there is confusion, it’s the leader's fault” is a mantra that I try to instill in my future leaders. Too often, new leaders are impatient with change. They want to fix everything that ills their command. This overzealous approach usually backfires because in trying to put out all the fires, they create more by adding confusion to the mix. To make matters worse, the leader can blame their staff for being confused. The leader must remember that their staff has jobs and responsibilities that they must focus on. By creating a whirlwind of change, you can end up overwhelming and confusing your staff. New leaders need to slow down and methodically go about problem-solving. Take on one challenge at a time and communicate as to why this challenge was examined, the steps you are taking to remedy it, and finally how the challenge has been remedied. This approach, while including your staff, will not have them take on needless additional responsibilities. By informing, but not overwhelming, the leader will not confuse their staff. However, even if this approach does cause confusion, the leader needs only to look in the mirror for the reason. The good news is the solution is also in the mirror!