It’s late Friday afternoon and you’ve already had a long, stressful, rollercoaster of a week. Your shop foreman just walked into your office to tell you the major customer that you’re stressed over — you know, the one whose truck you promised a week ago, who’s just one more mistake from pulling his business — well, his truck won’t be finished before Monday.
- Explode all over your foreman, berate him for being incompetent, not understanding how important this customer is, and not being able to get his job done.
- Go silent, feel your blood pressure creep up to an all-time high, and tell the foreman to get out of your office.
- Call the customer and throw yourself at his mercy.
- Run out to the shop, rally the troops, and get the truck completed this afternoon.
None of these are particularly good options, are they? They all have consequences. Some would feel right in the moment, but they would create larger problems later.
What if it didn’t have to be this way? What if, by adjusting the way you communicate with your employees, you could avoid this scenario and do what you want to do: Run a successful business, a business without all the stress and last-minute drama? A pipe dream, you say? No, effective leadership communication.
Options 1 and 2 achieve effectively nothing and you still have the problem to solve. Option 3 might seem prudent, and frankly if it’s clear the problem can’t be resolved it may become necessary, but at what risk? No, the best of the four bad options is to get out in the shop and solve the problem, finish the repair.
Let’s say that you’re successful and the truck gets delivered. The crisis is resolved and you’re feeling good about getting it done. Yet there’s a bit of unease in the back of your mind: Why did I have to come out and solve this? Isn’t that what I pay my foreman to do? Yes it is, but does he know how?
The key in this scenario is to make sure it doesn’t happen again. You must teach your foreman how to solve problems and not just bring them to you.
I recommend that you implement a process of after-action reviews (AAR). This comes from the U.S. Army and involves three simple questions. After any engagement, you gather the team involved and ask:
- What happened?
- Why did happen?
- What can we do to keep it from happening again?
This simple communication-based activity begins to set a clear expectation that we must continually improve and solve problems effectively.
Communication is a critical component of a successful business, and yet most managers stopped learning how to improve communication when they completed their formal education. Using a few straightforward approaches to enhancing your communication can significantly improve business performance and get you out of the rollercoaster drama cycle that plagues so many.
I recommend that, once you resolve the current crisis, you meet with your foreman and technicians and conduct an AAR. Make sure they learn how to improve. Then meet privately with your foreman and explain your expectations around performance clearly and completely. Believe it or not, he probably doesn’t understand exactly what your expectations are, and is afraid to ask you.
If you want to learn more about how effective communication can solve several of the challenges you’re facing in your business right now, join me at the Expo for my workshop, called They Just Don’t Understand. There you’ll learn why your employees don’t hear you and how you can get through to them and improve your business.
See you in Vegas this November!