Allowing the right message to bloom and grow
Earlier this week you may have come across the righting of a fake news story – a restaurant worker who had doctored a bill to look like a racist attack by diners he’d been serving and posted on Facebook had decided to come clean and admit he’d faked the story.
At the time of the original story there was a flurry of outrage on social media about the ‘behaviour’ of the diners. The remark they were said to have scribbled on their bill was making an unpleasant contribution to creating a toxic climate. Needless to say the restaurant worker is no longer working at the restaurant.
From the management’s point of view it is difficult to see what they could have done to control this rogue act. But it did remind me that too often in organisations gossip, myth, rumour, speculation and yes, fake news, seem to grow like weeds. Wherever in the organisation we look, or listen, the things people are talking about with concern or with passion can, at times, bear little relation to the reality.
The thing is gossip and rumour love a vacuum. If, as leaders, we aren’t communicating, aren’t providing a narrative, aren’t keeping people updated, then something, some story will take seed, germinate and grow in the space. And often it will be wrongheaded.
Of course there are many legitimate reasons why we stop talking, why the timing isn’t right to communicate. At times we feel we don’t have anything to say. The project that we’ve been working on hasn’t moved forward as fast as planned so we can’t give a positive update. Instead we say nothing. The speculation about the lack of a progress report will almost certainly be negative. That negativity very subtly saps morale. And we have to factor in the time wasted speculating on why nothing has been said.
Wouldn’t it be better and cleaner to say we’ve hit a snag and this is what it is and this is what we’re doing about it?
Or what about the meetings of senior leaders, Exec teams and the like which everyone is aware are taking place but little is heard afterwards of what was discussed. Too often senior teams forget to agree what they’re going to share with the wider colleague group and then go and share it. If things aren’t going well in an organisation you can bet your bottom dollar the grapevine will be fizzing with activity filling the spaces where genuine messages should be landing.
The bottom line here is that even if we feel we have nothing to say, even if we don’t feel the timing is right we have to talk and keep talking, creating a dialogue in the organisation that is a living thing and in which people can take part. And we have to show up in the conversation ensuring people experience our passion and heart connection with the subject and with them and what they have to say. These quality conversations are the building blocks of a positive and open culture in which the right messages can bloom and grow.