Years ago, about 35 more or less, I made several mistakes as a new and inexperienced leader. There is one out of the many that sticks out. Every Friday, we had staff meeting that could last anywhere from one to three hours. I thought I was being comprehensive. Part of the goal was to share information. Finally, my assistant director shared some feedback with me.
“Listening to you at meetings can be overwhelming. There is so much information, ideas and directions that we get lost in the confusion.”
It was great feedback! It caused me to reflect on my objective, examine my approach, evaluate the outcomes and adjust what I was doing.
A lesson that was learned, but I was not able to verbalize until I read Michael Fullan’s “Leading During Change”, is that information without relationships clogs up the communication pipeline. Equally, a flood of information not aligned to a goal or specific action rarely gets implemented. What people hear is just “Yadda, yadda, yadda!” What we want them to hear is clear, concise pieces of information that will help them be more successful and advance the vision and mission of the group.
Let’s look at just two strategies for this kind of communication.
Data + Relationships = Knowledge
One way to define knowledge is the application of information to secure a desired result. Leaders must create a culture where knowledge is a priority. One approach to establishing and nurturing such a culture is building relationships. Here is a question to reflect on. Who are you more likely to listen to, someone you know and trust or a stranger? Most of us will answer the first choice—someone we know and trust. It makes sense then for leaders to place creating relationships at the top of their “To Do” list.
Here is another nugget from Fullan: Turning information into knowledge is a social process—leaders NEED good relationships.” Good leaders commit themselves to constantly generating and increasing knowledge—knowledge that is useful and helpful to their team.
Align the information with your vision and their needs
Information is good. If we want to turn it into knowledge, it needs to fill a need. There needs to be a ready opportunity for application of the information and for staff success.
When leaders are deciding what information they want to share they should consider:
- Does the information address a need of the staff? (How needs can be identified is a topic for another post!)
- What, if anything does the staff need to use the information? (Materials, tools, etc.)
- Have you shared with your staff that you will be monitoring how they use the information and what specifically will you be monitoring (what behaviors and actions)
- Have you shared what will determine successful use of the information and what does not
Leaders promoting change must be concerned with both providing information and the strategies needed to using that information. The goal is to change information into knowledge. Ultimately, we want to create a culture of knowledge sharing—where staff as a common practice shares what they have learned with each other. For that to happen, they must feel connected to a higher moral purpose (your vision) and to you and their fellow team members (relationships).
- Create opportunities for learning both in training and embedded in the daily work day
- Designing settings and events that prompt the use of this information
- Cultivate an environment via expected behaviors and norms where knowledge sharing can occur
- Get involved and personally participate in the process—actively listening, questioning and providing guidance