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Why Top Executives Keep Employees In The Dark

Have you ever noticed that most companies don't spend a lot of time telling you "how things get done around here?"

Shockingly, very little information is available explicitly.
  • Our management guru of choice: Is it Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Tom Peters, Peter Drucker, who? What books do we read, what discipline do we follow?
  • The history, mission and current challenges facing the organization: When did it get started? What were the meaningful moments? Who do we revere here, what difference did they make? What do we need to do now, and why?
  • The little things: Words "we" use. When people go to lunch. How to address superiors (first name only or more formally), send emails (short or long, or maybe we talk in person and stay off the computer), and so on?
  • Of course, the "brass tacks": What are our standard operating procedures? How do we define each job - your job? When we sit down together at the end of the year and talk about a bonus - will you have known all this time what you could have done to earn it?
You would think we'd spend almost all our time doing management stuff, performance stuff, coaching stuff and cultural stuff. And, of course, training stuff to get people up to speed.

For no matter how sophisticated your operation, only human beings can get the work done. Only people can make the decisions, pull the levers, and leverage the technologies.
So why do we leave them grasping for answers in the dark?

I think the answer is that the higher they go on the food chain, the less executives understand how very little most people in the organization know - because they are having conversations at the top, where most of the real action lives.

Living at the top, most executives not only don't understand the downstream impact of ignorance - they actually do not see, and cannot understand, that it exists.

But they do see that employees are unmotivated, that they don't care.

Here's a good way to fix that problem: Tell people what is going on, what you want from them, and how they can help.  In short:
“A company is people … employees want to know… am I being listened to or am I a cog in the wheel? People really need to feel wanted.” - Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Enterprises
You don't have to make a big deal out of "internal communication" programs or hire a huge specialized staff to speak in a foreign language to those you manage.

Just step back and let them do what they are supposed to do in the first place.

If you don't, guess what is going to happen?

They will "divorce" you!

But before they leave, they'll be disengaged, pushing email back and forth, getting into needless conflicts with other employees, and eventually marking time while they find another employer that loves and values them.

Of course, there are many intelligently run companies out there. They make sure, at all times, that staff members know their place on the team. That they're up to speed, formally and informally.

Richard Branson again:
“Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.” - Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Enterprises
In fact, great companies go well beyond informing. Instead, their attitude is all about marketing, and they market from top to the bottom and all the way back up again because they know that the employees are really all they have in terms of assets. With every word, every assignment, every email and every chat they communicate:
“You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.”
–  Herb Brooks (1937 - 2003), head coach of the U.S. Olympic hockey team, Lake Placid, 1980, which won a gold medal
Copyright 2016 by Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of her employer or any other organization or entity, including the United States as a whole. Photo via Pixabay (Creative Commons CCo).

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