Contractor Tip Of The Month: Your Team Needs a Clear Message

Damian Lang

Remember the old adage, “If you want something done, you have to do it yourself”? It’s easy for a leader to feel that way. But the truth is,if you really want something done, you must communicate what you want to be done clearly to your team.  

If the team doesn’t know your plan and exactly what is expected of them to help accomplish it, organizational chaos will prevail, and there will be no accountability throughout your business.  

Employees cannot read your mind, and if you aren’t communicating clearly, it is too easy for them to misinterpret what you’re saying, or not saying for that matter. At the moment, they may think they understand the message, and you may think they understand it. But in reality, you may be miles apart.     

Have you heard the story called That’s Not My Job? It’s about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybodywas sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobodydid it. Somebody got angry aboutthat because it was Everybody’s job.  

Everybody thought Anybodycould do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. In the end, Everybodyblamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.  

Does that sound like any place you’ve ever worked? Now think about whether you are sending clear instructions to your people. If you aren’t, then they may think Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobodyis responsible to do the job.   

It can be just as damaging to your company when you don’t make a decision or give a swift answer when you are asked a question. If your employees are constantly waiting on you for instructions or directions on what to do next (if they are not empowered to make decisions on their own), they will wind up waiting in confusion. 

If an employee tells you what he plans to do and asks if it’s OK, 90% of the time, your answer will be yes. That’s because he has likely already carefully researched and meditated on the subject before bringing it to you. So chances are, his plan is better than what you might come up with on the spot because you haven’t done the same research. So, you can almost always just say yes. 

However, there is another issue with just saying yes. When co-workers know they have to come to you to approve everything they do, they are no longer responsible for the results from the decision that was made. You are. The danger is,if you assume responsibility for everything that happens, the employees will not work as hard on research to bring the correct answer to you the next time. Their thinking is, why waste my time when you are going to answer the question anyway, and ultimately, take responsibility for the outcome.    

To bring accountability to the team, the best answer to the question is no answer at all. Instead, tell them to do what they think is right and you will support their decisions, even if it doesn’t work out. Like I mentioned earlier, you know they will be right 90% of the time. So, why not let them make the decision on their own? That 90% is likely more accurate than you would be shooting from the hip, especially when you haven’t studied the subject as they have.  

Of course, there are times when you may need to redirect and/or correct through training the team on what you would do in most situations. It starts with the core values of your company. At Watertown Enterprises, we have created core values that hang on the wall in each person’s office:  

V – Value Honesty 

A – Amazing Judgement 

L – Leading by Taking Action 

U – United Team 

E – Exceeding Customer Expectations 

S – Swift to Change 

When everyone knows the core values, and you display them consistently in your leadership, people begin to learn what you would do in most situations. Once they know what you would do, they become more comfortable in making decisions on their own. When people start making decisions on their own, your company will begin to move forward at lightning speed compared to when people were waiting on you for direction.   

You may be thinking, but my people don’t have the ability to make the decisions on their own. If this is the case, you need to learn to trust the people to do the jobs you hired them to do. If they can’t do the job on their own, you have the wrong people in those roles. Therefore, you must find the right people who can fulfill their own roles at your company.   

What will you do with this article? Will you develop core values and build a consistent message for your team? Or, will you leave it to Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, or Nobody to discover the direction you want to take your company? Remember, what you do will ring clear (or unclear) throughout the whole organization. If you make the wrong choice, eventually your only happy customers will be Nobody!

Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Malta Dynamics,andEZG Manufacturing. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make jobsites more efficient, visit his websites at ezgmfg.com or maltadynamics.com. To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, email:dlang@watertownenterprises.com or call 740-749-3512.