Have you ever shown up to volunteer with a church or organization and felt out of place, unsure of what to do, or so invisible that you were sure if you walked out, no one would notice at all?
My family and I experienced this one evening as we showed up to pack and distribute food to families who had been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus. We arrived to volunteer at a stuffy, overwhelming room filled with piles of food, not organized yet, with masked workers shuffling stacks of inventory back and forth. Not quite sure who was in charge and even more unsure about where we fit in, we asked anyone who looked our way, “What would you like us to do?” Hand gestures and muffled answers signaled, “Grab those boxes” or “Move these apples from here to there,” so we tackled our jobs gladly but were back in ten minutes asking again, “What would you like us to do now?”
For all our intentions of wanting to do good, it ended in discouraging defeat. I left feeling as if we had wasted our time going and guilty for not having contributed more.
As I began to think about this experience, I couldn’t help but to draw parallels between it and how many employees deal with these feelings and situations daily in the workplace. I know I sure have, which is one of the reasons I am so passionate about organizational health and helping managers and leaders connect the dots between what they think is happening in their organization and what their employees are actually experiencing.
1. Clarity is everything
One time my boss handed a piece of mail to me with this instruction: “Find out why we get this.” So I called the 800 number and said, “My boss wants to know why we get this.” She clicked around for a few seconds and concluded that she wasn’t sure why we were still receiving the notice when our activity on the account had been dormant for some time. She suggested that we cancel the account, and I agreed to her professional recommendation. I left a note for my boss that said it had been taken care of, the account was canceled.
Perhaps you can sympathize with my near heart attack as he received the note and stoked my panic, “What do you mean the account was canceled? That’s not what I meant!” As it turns out, I had authorized the cancellation of an account with the IRS for which we paid taxes every year in another state. How in the world was I supposed to have known what he wanted with a directive like the one he gave me?
Employees show up wanting to do good, but directions must be clear for tasks and goals to happen correctly. Here’s a tip for all of us: If we think that we’ve been clear, we probably haven’t. Not a coincidence, then, that noted author and organizational health pioneer Patrick Lencioni assigns three of his four disciplines to building a healthy organization as follows: 1. Build a Cohesive Leadership Team; 2. Create Clarity; 3. Overcommunicate Clarity; 4. Reinforce Clarity.
Clarity is never overrated. Be clear with what you mean. Talk in complete sentences. Ask the person if they understand what you said. And make sure you know what you mean before you ask someone else to. No employee goes into a task wanting to mess it up, so if something derails, you might want to retrace your steps and ask, “Was I clear?”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Stacey March