Speak UP

You need to communicate more. The people you work with and the ones who work for you want information, they want feedback. They don’t want to be left in the dark. No news is not good news, it is an opportunity for rumor and second-guessing. Over time a lack of communication and feedback can lead to indifference, apathy, and animosity. None of which are very sound motivational strategies! The solution to this lack of communication is to, well, communicate. Too bad that is a lot harder than it sounds. A lot harder!

First of all the construction world is not one of relationships. It is one of tasks. Getting things done is what creates value, not having conversations. But how else will you build capacity in your organization for the future if you are not having developmental conversations with people. I am working with a client and we have identified this as being an important issue. Nine months ago we identified the importance of giving feedback and having developmental conversations. We trained the senior leaders on how to do it. Nothing happened. I then did one on one coaching conversations with each of them to help them learn how to do it. They still delayed. We all agreed that it was still important. No action. More one on ones and finally these leaders are starting to have the conversations. Why so long to do such a simple thing?

We already identified the task nature of the industry as one reason. Another is lack of practice leads to lack of proficiency and that leads to inaction. Who wants to do something they are not good at? The remedy to this is to follow the mandate of Nike and Just Do It. No, you may not be perfect but the only way you can begin to get better at communication is to do it. One of the best books on the subject is Crucial Conversations. We teach a multi-day workshop based on the book but you don’t need to attend that to read a book. Another fine book is the The Lost Art of Listening. If you want to be a better communicator you can start by reading those books. Short of reading a book you can tell yourself to listen. Put away the technology, focus on the person. Listen for content and for meaning. Pause, paraphrase and repeat back what you heard. These are all simple and highly effective techniques to enhance communication.

Today in a planning session with a leadership team the subject came up again. The leadership team told the President of the firm they wanted feedback. I then asked how much feedback they gave to their people. Silence. How ironic that these people were saying they wanted feedback but weren’t giving it. So, we start from scratch and outline the expectation that communication is an important part of employee development, then we train and follow-up that the developmental conversations are happening.

Our human ability to communicate is a blessing and a curse. A blessing when employed well. A curse when we get it wrong. Any effort you make to be a better communicator is one of the best investments you can make in yourself.

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"I have attended quite a few leadership seminars, and have tried to gather and relate things from each of them, but your hit all 3 of us with material that relates and for myself commands an internal level of accountability and responsibility in what I do at our company. "

Chris Larente
Construction Superintendent
Park Paving LTD.