I was recently appointed as a referee at a nationwide junior football tournament. Two hard days running, with 16 games and 750 kids between the age of 10 and 14 but it was good fun. At these events you have volunteer mums and dads acting as your assistant referee (linesmen in old language) and you get varying degrees of capability as you would expect, often meaning you are coaching them in the signals you need and want throughout the game.
In one of my later games I had a ‘Dad’ who did not keep up with play, was often talking to people or players and at one occasion wasn’t even in the right half of the field. As such his flagging was inconsistent and often inaccurate. As a referee at such events you get used to that and knowing that in the end the call is yours you decide how far you can trust the signals you do get.
Most parents go along with that, but at the end of the game this Dad came over and said to me ‘what is the use of me being there if you don’t agree with my flag. I definitely saw a foul and you did not blow for it’. So I told him what I observed in his positioning and attention and said to him that as a referee I have to use those observations to decide how far I trust the signals that he did give.
It occurred to me that this is not dissimilar to workplace situations for many managers and leaders. Your credibility is a function of how attentive you are to the business of your business.
As a leader of others, do you ensure that they know what signals are important to you and what is expected of them? Do you give them feedback when they miss something or their attention wanders from the main objective of their role? Do you recognise them when they do give sound advice and do bring important things to the table? Do you give them airtime so that they can build up credibility with you? Do you ensure that they know how far you trust them? And what it takes to grow that trust?
And what about you?
Do you see issues coming in advance because you are keeping an eye out for them and are positioned to see the trends in your game? Do you pay attention to what you should or can you get distracted by other things and take your eye off the game at times? Do you let your leader know what they need to know in a timely way so that important calls can be made? When you do speak up, have you built up a reputation that means what you say is listened to? When you speak do you make sure it is worth listening to? Have you built up rapport and a relationship with your manager so that you are listened to when it matters? Or do you have a reputation for some bad habits to come out in certain situations, under stress or with certain people?
Credibility is a cornerstone of your reputation. What are you doing to maintain that?
I recently got in to a twitter discussion about communicating change. It went a little like this. I commented on a tweet that suggested you should focus on the pro’s not the cons and that this was a ‘change management principle’. I commented by saying that ‘honest conversations is a change management principle’ and sometimes you needed to ‘out’ the cons to get to the pro’s. The tweeter came back and said that it ‘depends on the people you deal with’ and knowing your audience was a ‘change management principle’.
Let’s ignore the fact that you can’t have a good exchange of ideas in a medium that is keeps you to 140 words and focus on the idea of communicating the positives in change and that being an audience need.
I have produced communications for change for many clients over many years. In doing so I have found that some get bothered about explaining ‘the problem’ that is driving the change. Many want to focus on the end game that they have begun to envisage and to ‘sell’ that future state, which is much better than current reality. Some just don’t like engaging in ‘hard’ conversations, so they avoid them preferring everyone to be happy. Some see acceptance of current reality as a sign of failure on their part and don’t want to go there.
I normally convince them that starting your change comms with a ‘positive spin’ is a sure fire way of the change failing. Your people always know that there is a problem even if they don’t always know exactly what it is or what to do about it. So pretending there isn’t just means that they won’t respect you or the ideas you are putting forward.
I have a principle that I adhere to and that is ‘nobody buys a solution to a problem they don’t have’. If you’ve got a hole in your shoe you know you need a new pair. But buying a new pair just because a salesperson says you need to? Doesn’t work (for most of us, but let’s not get too focused on shoes!).
It doesn’t matter what the change, I believe people need to understand the problem with staying just as we are now. Whether it is culture change or restructuring I have found that holds true, and no matter how tough the message, people respect it in the long term. So only focusing on the positives? I would say not at the start of communicating a need for change.
Does the audience matter? That idea intrigued me. Do some people need positives only and others only negatives? I believe that whatever behavioral type you are, you still need an honest conversation. Sure there are some who will buy in to the positive reasons for change quicker than others, but a greater majority tend to work through the problems first to get to the positives (if you’d like to know why, then talk to me about our ‘understanding others behaviours’ seminar). If there is a reason for the change people will need to accept that reason, in their way, their style, in their thinking.
So ‘change management principle’: honesty first, positives second!
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