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For those of you who are reading this newsletter for the first time, our topics are based on
accompanying material written for the book The Trusted Leader.
This month: Six Communications Mistakes New Managers Make

February 8, 2005      
Topics of Trust and Leadership, from the authors of The Trusted Leader



The authors of The Trusted Leader

This month’s article is the fifth in a series written for managers “on their way in,” whether it is to a new organization, or even to a new role.

Last month we discussed the importance of finding a trusted advisor to help you avoid hidden pitfalls in your new role.

This month's issue introduces some of the ways new managers can really flub it by making communications mistakes in their new role. It underscores what we wrote in our December 2004 issue about listening and doing your homework before taking action.


The Trusted Leader

Previous Issues:

Find Yourself a Guide

Establish Trust by Listening and Doing Your Homework

Past Performance is no Guarantee of Future Results


Next month's issue: Be a Person

On a side note, have you read either of the two new books for managers "on the way in?" Over at the 800-CEO-READ blog, they've mentioned that there is a little tiff between the authors of two new books.

According to the blog, Michael Watkins says his book The First 90 Days is too similar to You're In Charge-Now What? by Thomas Neff and James Citrin. One says "Extensive parallels" and the other says "Outrageous." The story goes on to say there are lots of threats of lawsuits between various parties.

See the 800-CEO-READ blog for a link to a Forbes article on the subject and an opportunity to post your comments.

-Rob and Anne-



When you’re the new person in charge, you’ve got to figure out how your group communicates. In what form(s) does communication take place? What works and what doesn’t? Can you add to or improve the process?

If you’re going to build trust on the way in, get on the right track for information and communication. There are a number of aspects to this principle, and it affects not just what information is transmitted, but how it occurs and with whom. And there are so many ways to get it wrong (or right).

Here are six important ones to heed:

1) Writing memos (or e-mails) when everyone else in the organization just picks up the phone.

Or, doing something organizationally distracting.

In one dysfunctional technology firm we observed, much of the senior leadership spent a vast amount of time on Internet Messenger with one another. Not just a little bit of IM, but lots of it. Huge amounts. People practically stopped going into their colleagues' offices. Live conversations and phone calls were nearly replaced by the ping of the IM. With a change of leadership, the IM traffic (fortunately) diminished, and the place began making its way back to more face-to-face communications.

Figure out what gets written, and what gets spoken.

2) Being overly restrictive (or expansive) on the distribution list of who gets your messages or participates in your meetings.

Not inviting the right people is sure to cause some hurt feelings. Invite too many and you not only end up with too large a crowd to get anything done, but you’ve wasted a lot of people’s time. This is a good opportunity to ask your guide what is expected.

3) Being a "Word" thinker or communicator in a "Powerpoint" organization, or vice versa.

If, as Aristotle reportedly said (albeit in the Greek language of his day) that "the soul never thinks without a picture," how should you paint the picture in your new situation?

4) Scheduling meetings with the inappropriate level of planning, formality or organization.

For better or worse, some company leaders' days are now run by MeetingMaker software (or something comparable). If you keep on trying for the impromptu meeting in a MeetingMaker setting, it'll take a long time to get much done. It all depends on the rhythm of the place.

5) Changing trusted communications channels.

One CEO we know faithfully does a Saturday morning "radio broadcast" via voice-mail to his 300 top managers worldwide, and gets both voice-mail and e-mail responses. People have become very accustomed to it since he initiated it some four years ago. Is this approach (or something similar) right for you in your new role?

6) Communicating with the wrong level of frequency or tone.

It's really important for you to figure out how you'll hit the right level of touch, in both tone and frequency. As you might suspect, over-communication is rarely the problem that needs correction.

The list could go on and on, and would include the timing and frequency of staff meetings or call-ins, organization-wide meetings or communiqués, informal lunches for data gathering, etc.

The bottom line, as you make your way in, is clear. Find the right rhythms and systems that will work FOR you, retaining those methods that are culturally important to the organization, and introducing or discarding others so as to increase the level of trust inside.

Have you ever noticed a new manager making a big communications mistake? Let us know.

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