In Action, Change, Leaders

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

So many leaders I talk to express frustration about the situations they find themselves in.  The organizations they lead aren’t performing the way they’d like, something’s wrong with their people or products or services, or maybe they don’t even like the way the maintenance staff cleans their office.  Whatever the case, there is a gap between what they expect and what they’re actually getting.

Those leaders, even the good ones, have lots of explanations for why that gap exists.  Most of those explanations are just excuses.  Most of the time, those explanations really don’t get to one of the core problems most leaders have.

Leaders, like everyone else on this planet, have a tendency to make assumptions.  We assume our people and our customers and our vendors and whoever else all know exactly what we want from them.  We know in our own minds what we want, and it seems obvious, so we assume they know it too.

They don’t know it.  There probably is not a single person in your organization who knows exactly what you want unless you specifically and purposefully tell them.  Even your best people are going to have ideas or perceptions that are different from yours (which is a good thing), and they, just like everyone else, are going to operate based on those ideas or perceptions.

The only assumption that’s safe to make is that nobody knows what you want or expect.  Make a point to tell them exactly what you need or want from them, and do it clearly, so there can be no misunderstandings.  Don’t just sort of mention it off hand, or drop hints that you hope they’ll pick up on.  If you want something from someone, you have to directly tell them.

Think about the things you haven’t said to your people, and then think about what frustrates you about their behaviors.  Chances are there’s a correlation between those frustrations and the things you’ve left unsaid.  And that’s your fault.

There’s no such thing as “they ought to know better.”  They know what you tell them.  So tell them what they need to know and quit blaming them for your lack of communication.

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