3 Key Practices For Improving Communication and Trust

What 50 years of Business Leadership Taught Mike…

First, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the strength, wisdom, and commitment you’ve got to lead your co-workers, especially in a company that leads your industry! Second, let’s acknowledge the frequent changes that you have to face and adapt to, while maintaining the course towards your company’s vision and goals. It’s not easy and can be exhausting. Stay the course!

In this month’s article, you’ll learn from a business leader on how to strengthen lines of communication between executives and managers, and what accountability and mico-management “sounds like”.

Meet Mike Druce

Last Fall, I had the privilege of spending a weekend with extended family and connect with Mike Druce. Over the past 50 years, Mike had various leadership and executive positions in some major industries:

  • Former VP of a national logistics company that currently serves Home Depot, Lowes, and Costco.
  • Consultant for a global logistics company for mineral mines
  • Consultant to municipal power for the State of Arizona, and Fukushima Power Plant, Japan.
  • Currently a consultant for a small business developing advanced machinery.

Waiting for dinner to be served, I realized that Mike was a “goldmine” of business knowledge! So I sat with him and asked him about leadership in the workplace:

Q. What is the most important piece of advice you could give from your experience to a leader or executive?

A“The biggest obstacles to a successful organization/company is mismanagement of the people and miscommunication.”

Out of all the things he could’ve said that are big obstacles (money, competitive industry, economic downturn, regulations, a pandemic!), he saw “mismanagement” and “miscommunication” as the biggest factors in seeing the success and failure of companies he worked for/with.

There’s a saying, “the problem is also the solution.” In leadership life, it’s very easy to see people as the problem in a company, but Mike sees the people we lead and work with as the key solution to problems in our company. Rarely is a product or service the answer.

Mike briefly shared about leaders that shut down morale, dignity, or team feedback and caused long-term harm, even if short-term results appeared successful. Employee training & performance naturally rise when competent leaders are in place.

This led me to the next question. I was looking for a simple but reliable practice that any leader could do….

Q. What is the top need for Executives/Directors on a weekly basis?

A. Mike said the #1 thing that made a difference for his success was: “One-One meetings (30 min-1hr) with 2 levels of leaders – managers and supervisors they oversee.”

  1. Why 2 levels? Because the leader can get the best picture of how things are going in that department/team. This was preventative practice against miscommunication because some managers may not willingly share important info to their directors/executives. It created a way to improve the organization with better results.
  2. Motivation for weekly meetings may not be easy for some leaders. However, it’s a powerful tool that affects employee morale. And, according to research, morale directly influences a company’s goals and results.

Q. What happens in those one-one meetings?

  1. He communicates company updates to the manager, which helps keep the big picture in mind.
  2. He discusses what’s working well for the team/dept, strengths he observes about the manager’s recent work, and opportunities for improvement.
  3. For the remainder of the meeting, the manager is invited to discuss anything personal or work related. The manager can share any feedback, complaints, concerns, and even personal life updates. If the employee had nothing to discuss, the meeting was over.

One time Mike had one of those weekly meetings. When he was done giving updates and discussing business, it was the team leader’s turn to share anything important. The team leader said no, but he did want to announce that his baby was born recently! It was a time of strengthening connections. Those weekly meetings with managers and supervisors strengthened the relationships and common bonds he had in the company.

One important thing leaders can remember to do is to ask for feedback from people they oversee. Naturally, giving constructive feedback to a leader or executive can be intimidating, so it’s up to a leader to keep communication lines open.

A company-wide expectation that yielded huge results:

Mike also pointed out a key company expectation from all employees that made a huge difference in focus, organization, and productivity: All new employees on day 1 were taught, encouraged, and reminded that they have freedom to ask questions about why a task/procedure was done a particular way. If a supervisor/manager in the next 2 levels above the employee couldn’t answer it, then the director/executive must fully re-evaluate the task or process.

It was PAINFUL, but it was worth it.

This standard practice prevented a lot of wasted time, energy, and money.

Another piece of advice Mike mentioned was, “the job of a manager / executive is obstacle removal and accountability of the work- not micromanagement.”

But what do those words really mean? What do they sound like in a workplace? This graphic describes what it may sound like…

You’ll notice that if more people speak the language of accountability and obstacle removal, not micro-management, there would be an increase in trust in one another. A company with strong ties of trust can do great things.

Summary

Mismanagement and miscommunication are obstacles to company success. Here are 3 important ways to reduce them:

1) Have weekly one-one meetings with managers and supervisors, preferably two levels of leadership.

  • In leadership meetings, point out what is working well, what you admire about the leader’s work lately, and opportunities for improvement. 
  • Make time to hear what concerns or obstacles the manager/supervisor needs to discuss (Use the “Asking for Feedback” questions as needed).

2) Set a company expectation: Asking why a task is important or necessary is welcome. It may be painful for leadership, but it will yield great results.

3) What does your workday sound like? Micromanagement undermines trust in your leaders and teams; Accountability and obstacle removal are important practices that build trust.