Communicate Like You Don't Work Here Anymore

I was chatting with a friend who recently left a ministry job in which he’d been very effective, yet was not appreciated for his talents and efforts and as such was considerably underpaid.  Plus he admitted that he wasn’t listened too. While my friend loved the ministry and the job, he was in essence forced to look elsewhere for a job from which he could support his family, as well as feel appreciated and rewarded for his efforts. I was stunned when my friend told me that after he’d notified his boss that he was leaving, they were able to sit down and have a better conversation about the job, expectations, pay and goals than at any other time during his two-year employment.  His comment was “I wished we could have talked like this when I was still with the organization.” 

How did this happen? I thought about my friend – passionate about the ministry he’d worked for. He gave it his all, and had done a great job in helping it grow in effectiveness. By all accounts he was very good at what he did. Now he was going to a new (and hopefully better opportunity), while the ministry he left was now in the position of having to replace a valuable team member with somebody new. My sense is they’ll be lucky to hire someone as good.

As I thought about what happened I asked myself why my friend and his former boss didn’t have their really good discussion (or perhaps several of them) prior to his leaving? That could have been a game-changer…with perhaps drastically different results than what happened.  Isn’t that what a ‘healthy’ organization would do?

Pat Lencioni, considered by many the ‘father’ of organizational health, identifies 4 essential elements of team health:

  1. Build a cohesive leadership team
  2. Create clarity
  3. Over communicate clarity
  4. Reinforce clarity

In case you missed it, the word CLARITY is used in 3 of the 4 disciplines. Could Mr. Lencioni be trying to emphasize the importance of CLARITY? My friend might ask why clarity is so hard, and how can we learn clarity to learn better, more healthy teams?

Maybe we’re not clear because we fear confrontation, or perhaps we’re not paying attention, or thinking the other person knows what we are thinking, or don’t know how to be vulnerable with the rest of the team? Or perhaps all of the above.

Whatever the reason, the only way clarity can be exhibited, practiced, and perfected, is through effective communication. As servant leaders, it is our responsibility to lead the effort to practice excellence in being clear with our team. Here’s a short list of some of the most effective ways to accomplish this:

  1. Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31) - pay attention to them, show you care for them.  Put them first.
  2. Seek first to understand, then to be understood (a corollary of #1 by Stephen Covey).
  3. Ask lots of questions (Jim Alampi suggests your questions / statements ratio should be 20:1).  Good questions dig the holes that provide ‘wells’ of solutions.
  4. Listen. Listen well. Then listen some more.
  5. Be vulnerable and transparent. Your leadership in this area will bring about the same in the rest of your team. If you’re not vulnerable your team won’t be either.
  6. Over communicate (Lencioni says that when your team begins to mimic you that you’ve achieved the proper level of communication!). It is almost impossible to over communicate!

Create clarity – over communicate clarity – and reinforce clarity. Focus on that and you won’t end up having your best conversation with a team member after he leaves your firm. And you’ll have to hire one less person.