How Useful is Important Information?
A friend and colleague of mine wrote a wonderful book on preventing resistance & succeeding with organizational change entitled: Launch, Lead, Live_ Dr. Dawn-Marie Turner. I came upon many powerful points in this book and in particular this one; leaders who make the mistake of giving too much information equate important information with helpful information. Hence the title of today’s blog post. Just how useful is important information?
If you have been the recipient of a lot of information and find yourself asking what am I supposed to do with this? Then you have experienced what many employees have experienced with leaders who lead with too much information. But, you might also wonder, how then does a leader strike a balance between the other end of the information given during a change process; too little information? The answer lies in timing. In life everything comes down to timing.
So you and your organization are in the midst of a multiple change process. You the manager did not have the luxury, prior to implementation of the change, of receiving the right amount of information at the right time; my friend refers to this period in her book as the pre-launch period. Ideally this is where the leader prepares the team for what’s coming. Getting the team psychologically ready do wonders in how well they weather the storms a change in operation usually brings. In this pre-launch period the leader is strongly encouraged by my friend in her book not to sugar-coat the information. Let the team know about the benefits anticipated as well as the potential costs/challenges they may need to face.
Most important of all, let team leaders and managers know the anticipated impact on their daily operation. Said another way,let them ask questions about what it all means for them and their team. Be open and truthful with your answers.
This preparation phase when done well demonstrates the strength of the leader’s decision making abilities. The pre-launch period requires a good dose of problem solving and reality testing. The decision making process also involves impulse control. This trait is likely one in which many leaders may need to do more growing. It is tied to their decision to withhold and deliver too little information or inundate their direct reports with too much information.
Deciding what is useful information is not contingent on how the leader sees the information. This is another classic mistake made by leaders. Going back to the pre-launch period concept leaders have information that their direct reports don’t have. The leaders are therefore better prepared to receive information that they know is useful often lots of it. They are ready for the change.
Not necessarily so for their direct reports. The level and depth of information available pre-launch is not the same. Therefore, giving them a deluge of information you the leader deem is important and therefore useful has nothing but the opposite effect. Your direct reports will often be left feeling groundless. Not knowing how to make sense of what information they have received some direct reports stall, get stuck or they simply challenge the process. All this could and often is interpreted as resisting the change.
How do leaders avoid the mistake of giving too much information thinking it’s useful? I paraphrase my friend’s solution to this below:
- How will the information help my team make sense and move through the change process?
- Who is delivering the information to my team? Are they delivering the right message to them at the right time?
- Do my team have the proper structures and supports in place to help them be an active part of the change process?
In addition to the above I encourage the following:
- Understand the norms of your team. The unspoken and hidden agreements have the potential to make or break any change process
- Get to know the ‘unofficial team leader. You get this person to buy into you first he or she will get his followers to buy into the change process
- Recognize and acknowledge the team. Find different ways of showing them you care. Humans are social creatures and they thrive when they feel heard, understood and appreciated.
- Do know the tip of the iceberg isn’t the full story. What you may hear, see or sense from your direct reports isn’t necessarily the full story. Like an iceberg, you must dig deeper to find out the depth and breadth of what the true reality is of what they are facing.
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