I was reading an article this week that presented a great reminder to ask leadership teams what they learned during your meeting. Whether it was a quick standing meeting or a full-day retreat, you still need to know that what you wanted them to hear and act on has been communicated.
You might think you’re presenting a very clear and compelling explanation and plan, but people can often have an outside distraction that mentally take them away from the conversation and your main points. Leaders often tell me how frustrating it is to hold a meeting and see their team nodding in agreement, just to have them walk out and ask what are we supposed to do, or not act on what was requested.
“Communication is not what is said, but rather what is understood.”
Here is the main point of what I read so you can see if this is something you should also do with your teams.
At the end of every executive team meeting, before everyone starts to gather up their things to leave, the leader needs to stop and make the team collectively answer the following two questions:
1) What did we just agree on during this meeting?
2) What should we all go back and communicate to our direct reports during the next 24 hours?
Once the team agrees on what they’re supposed to do, each person can communicate with their direct reports, who in turn communicate the important information to their direct reports.
Yes, that’s it. It’s ridiculously simple, completely free of charge, and indispensable. Yet for some reason, many leaders simply don’t do it. Instead, they ASSUME that everyone is on the same page, and that they’ll be timely and thorough in their communication to their subordinates. What happens?
Inevitably, people throughout the organization get different messages from their leaders, and some get none at all. Some leaders communicate what they thought they heard. Others only communicate what they think is relevant to their people.
In the end, your employees are left to choose between a variety of reasons for this confusion. Either your leaders are lazy in their communication, or they have poor memories, or they don’t agree with one another and aren’t on the same page. Guess which one employees usually choose? The most negative one. Something like:
“There is no way that intelligent leaders would be so inconsistent and so confusing if they didn’t mean to be. Therefore they must not be getting along.”
This leads to a culture of distrust, suspicion and silos in our teams set in. All of this, and so many other problems in organizations, could be avoided if leaders had the discipline to embrace and stick with simple behaviors and habits like asking “What did you learn from our meeting?”
Try it at your next meeting.