I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. Looking for missed posts, click here: Mistake #1, Mistake #2, Mistake #3, Mistake #4, Mistake #5, Mistake #6)
Mistake #7: Communication Chaos
This might be the golden chapter in Finzel’s book, and I’m not sure how to summarize it in a blog post. Anyone who has worked with at least one other person, knows the pitfall of chaotic communication. When information is flying around and doesn’t hit its mark, the ensuing communication chaos can be frustrating at the least, and project/team destroying at worst.
To best summarize this chapter, I’ll highlight two lists, one which will allow you to evaluate the chaos in your leadership, and one that will help you get back on track.
Hans has a great list of 9 indicators that you are living with communication chaos. Do any of these ring true for you, your family or your organization?
- Chaos and confusion about the group’s direction: At the heart of communication chaos is the reality that everyone on the team seems to be working toward a different goal. When the group’s direction isn’t clear, there has been a significant breakdown of communication.
- Arguments or disagreements about priorities: When a ministry’s communication is in utter chaos, everyone’s own priorities seem to be most important, because the end goal, or final product, is clearly unexpressed or unknown!
- Duplication of effort: Too many people doing the same or overlapping tasks, and other tasks and duties remain un-delegated. Communication chaos leads to businesses dropping the ball in many areas of their work.
- Waste of resources through canceled jobs: I’ve experienced this first hand, on multiple occasions: watching projects multiply in cost, only to be short-circuited because of lousy communication. Money was spent freely, for nothing, simply because the project was never understood (by the leader, by the employee or by the people on the project)!
- Conflict among departments: It’s hard to get your teams on the same page when your communication is in utter chaos.
- Poor morale: Happy employees are affirmed (Mistake #3) and informed. When employees feel lost in the confusion of chaos communication, they are unhappy. How can you find these employees or team members? They are the first ones out the door the moment the office closes!
- Poor productivity: It’s almost impossible to be productive when you don’t know where the organization is headed, or what your roll in the organization is supposed to be accomplishing.
- Idleness of resources: Almost as bad as wasting money or resources, is having available resources that you aren’t utilizing because of poor communication.
- Job insecurity. With direction lacking, people part of a ministry or business that lacks clear communication, lack security in their work within that organization. If you don’t know what you’re doing (or why or how or how often...) you cannot know how valuable or necessary your position is within that group!
If you’re creating communication chaos, or maybe you’re living with it, here are a few suggestions on how to change the communication culture you’re living in:
- Have face time with your leaders [and the people you lead!]: One of the best ways to end communication chaos is to give the people in your organization opportunity to see you, engage you and clarify questions!
- Pray AND play with the people you lead: I recently left an organization where the CEO was absent outside of the office or boardroom. Rarely did we enjoy extensive prayer times together, even more rarely did we play together as a team. Many leaders keep their teams at arm’s reach, but both praying and playing require vulnerable communication from everyone involved!
- Schedule off-site meetings for work and play: Whether it’s your family at home, or the employees at the office, changing the location of your meetings can create freedom for expressing feelings, ideas and dreams.
- Make internal communications a top priority: If you’re leading, you have a responsibility to make sure communication is happening internally, EVEN MORE than externally! Even -- especially -- if your job is marketing or outside sales driven! Remember, communication isn’t the art of handing out information, it’s the art of making information understood.
- Keep expectations clear: Nothing is more frustrating to employees than not knowing what is expected of them, or of their particular job. Likewise, children thrive in homes where boundaries are clearly defined, versus homes where expectations shift with the mom or dad’s day at work.
- Find ways to express vision and mission clearly: Make sure your followers know what the goal the organization is shooting for each day (daily, weekly, monthly...etc...)
- Make sure formal communications systems are in place: We would all love to live in the boundaries of casual and informal communication, but reality dictates that formal methods have to be established and followed (and changed as organizations grow and change).
- Avoid surprises: Don’t shock employees with a long list of failures. Ambushing followers is wrong. Learn to have tough meetings along the way, so that if a team member is let go, they are never surprised. Be honest with love.
- Manage by wandering around: Get out of the office, the car, the classroom, the lazy boy or the bathroom! See your followers at work, work with them and engage them in their setting (without interrupting their work flow) so that you have some concept of the environment and culture that actually exists (not the one that exists in the theory of the boardroom).
- Practice honest, open and transparent communication. Nothing will be achieved until people talk.
Communication is the life-line for any family, organization, ministry, business, marriage or team. Everyone communicates, but if your habits and patterns create chaos, goals will go unmet, followers will be unhappy and resources will be wasted and lost. Effective communication can streamline success and bring clarity to goals and processes that allows you to reach them. How’s your communication?
Go ahead and take the plunge, your leadership will be better on the water!