If you were the boss in a perfect world, everything you want done would be completed on time. In an imperfect world with only 24 hours and never-ending demands of clients, employees, legislators, bosses, etc., something will slip through the crack or be delayed. While it seems clear communication should fix it, it doesn’t. It’s straight communication without consequences that creates order out of chaos.
In many organizations, unexpected delays come as no surprise. The culture of communication between the boss and subordinates is set up todo just that. For example, if you’re the boss and your people cannot say ‘no’ to your requests, you may be creating a ‘yes-man’ culture. In that culture, people say ‘yes’ because they fear the consequences if they say ‘no’. People who can only say ‘yes’ are powerless. As a result, they say ‘yes’ to survive in the workplace. Worst of all, when people say ‘yes’ and know there will be delays, they spend the rest of their time making up a good story for why the task was not completed on time.
If companies can accept the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and not everything will be completed, that provides a realistic platform from which to operate. Second, in that 24-hour period, there are many competing tasks demanding for immediate attention. Therefore, the boss must empower her people. She has to give them the possibility of honestly saying ‘no’.
If you structure communication between everyone with promises and requests, you will have a realistic understanding of constraints and priorities. Furthermore, your people will feel a sense of freedom and power in their professional lives.
The structure is as follows. If someone (anyone) makes a request, the recipient of the request can respond in 3 ways:
- Yes, I will complete ‘X’ by the date you requested (Tuesday at 3:00pm).
- No, I decline your request.
- I would like to make a counter offer. I cannot complete it by Tuesday at 3:00pm. I can have it by Wednesday at 10:00am.
Requests have to be made in time – Tuesday by 3:00pm. If the person agrees, there will be little need for discussion between the request date and Tuesday at 3:00pm. They have just made a promise to honor your request. In that environment, everyone understands they are to honor their word as themselves – my word is my bond.
When they are allowed to say ‘no’, there can be no negative consequences for the person. If there are repercussions, the entire system falls apart. And the ‘yes-man’ culture comes alive. When your people can say ‘no’, you will know they are being straight with you.
When they can make a counter offer, there can be a negotiation. It may also force you to restructure priorities and resources.
As a side, when people have complaints, you can listen for the hidden request or promise. In every complaint there is a desire for action. If someone comes into your office with a complaint, you can ask him or her if they are willing to be responsible for handling the problem. If so, they are coming into your office to ask you to accept their promise to fix the issue. If that is the case, problem solved, as long as there are clear agreements. On the other hand, they may be complaining as a request for someone else to handle the problem. If that is the case, you can ask: I hear your complaint about ‘X’. Do you have a specific request?
When promises and requests are a part of your company’s culture, it becomes easier to count on one another. As this structure gains momentum, people’s commitment increases and they go the extra mile because they know they have a choice.
What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.