Do they spend more time arguing instead of focusing on the mission — or being passive aggressive? (Like the company where team members would simply ignore someone when they were standing next to them at their desk with a question.)
Ironic isn’t it, you dreamed of the day when you wouldn’t have to be doing everything yourself. Now, dealing with the team is taking up so much of your time: Why can’t they just do what you need them to do?
Well, as your team grows, and you shift from execution to management, that is your most important job: to maintain clear communication and make sure they know what you need them to do.
Now you may be thinking, come on, they know what the mission is. I shouldn’t have to tell them all the time.
But that’s your POV. As the founder//CEO/leader, you have more information than anyone: you’re in the only position that can see across functions, across skill-sets, across your market, and across your customer/client base.
Your team is looking at the company from their vantage point, their POV. So keep in mind:
One: They’re distracted and overwhelmed, they’re simply not going to hear everything you say.
Two: Even when they do hear the words you say, they’re filtering them through their own beliefs, their emotional state at the time, and they’re interpreting your words based on their own frame of reference.
Sales interprets what you say through the lens of how it affects their ability to close deals; engineering through the lens of how it affects their ability to create growth features that will go viral.
So, I know, you have a 1,000 things you’re working on. You need to be efficient. You want to be able to say things once, have everybody get it, be on board and rowing in the same direction.
Here’s the thing: Effective communication is not efficient in the short term.
As Ali Rowghani, former CFO at Twitter and Pixar says: You have to reiterate much more than what feels reasonable, it will feel like you’re just repeating yourself, stating the obvious. But your employees will not internalize the message unless you communicate it constantly.
The real test is not simply whether employees can recite the mission, but whether they have context: Context to prioritize. Context to make decisions.
When a SpaceX employee was asked “What is your job at SpaceX?” he said: “The mission of SpaceX is to colonize Mars. In order to colonize Mars, we need to build reusable rockets because it will otherwise be unaffordable for humans to travel to Mars and back. My job is to help design the steering system that enables our rockets to land back on earth. You’ll know if I’ve succeeded if our rockets land on our platform in the Atlantic after launch.”
Not only did he know the mission, he could determine whether he was on track to succeed or not.
Of course, communicating effectively with your team is easier said than done. It’s more than sheer repetition. It requires empathy and being able to put yourself in others’ shoes. To master your own emotions and not sabotage your efforts with impatience or anger.
But when you do it right, things start to click. Your employees take ownership and make smart decisions. And as you consistently achieve customer and product milestones, you’ll have the sense that you’re all rowing the same way, with a singular goal.
Leaders tell me it’s the greatest feeling in the world.
p.s. If you’re frustrated with your team, let’s talk. I help clients every day figure out how to communicate effectively, especially in fast-changing, competitive environments. Get support here by booking your free breakthrough call.