communication

The Gray Zone

The Gray Zone

The Gray Zone

Let’s face it: we live in an either-or society.  You’re either with Us, or you’re with Them.  You are either for it, or you are against it.  How many times have you heard—or maybe even said to yourself!—that “It’s my way or the highway.”  Is it any surprise these same divisions are present in the workplace too?  Think about it: sales versus production, service providers versus support staff, baby boomers versus millennials, first shift versus second shift, management versus employees.

During our day-to-day interactions in the workplace, when we are not careful, it is all too easy to get embroiled in a debate with co-workers.  Sometimes, even when we realize that we are not in the right, we dig in and defend our positions.  Pride obscures our perception until we can’t see the truth, even though it’s right in front of us.

Sound familiar?

Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, people like to classify things.  Life is easier when we see things as extremes opposing each other, keeping the world “black and white.”  But life isn’t so easily classified.  We need to take some time and develop more appreciation for The Gray Zone.

So, what’s The Gray Zone?

The Gray Zone is the place between.  It’s not who is right in the workplace, but instead what is right.

Good communication in the workplace brings out the gray areas between the polarized black and white.  When a solution is a Gray Zone solution, it will instantly help organizations improve relationships and achieve results.  After all, there are few things as bulletproof as collaboration!

Here’s a quick snapshot of how Gray Zone solutions can function in your workplace:

Have you ever heard an employee say, “I did my share.  I did my job.”  Or maybe they say, “I did it last time.”  Or, when things have gone wrong, try to pass the blame along, saying, “No one ever told me!” 

Many leaders might write these employees off as simply having a bad attitude.  But if this is a pattern, then that leader has not done their job in clearly assigning work to their team.  After all, if everyone is responsible, then no one is.  Instead of writing employees off as lazy or ill-mannered—turning your team into the them—find the Gray Zone.  Leaders have an obligation to ask or tell their team how a job or assignment will be broken up.  The leader can then hold individuals personally accountable for not carrying their weight.  It stops being a question of who is right and becomes a question about what is right.

Change won’t come quickly unless you bring your team and yourself into The Gray Zone.  People are naturally resistant to change.  They want to know what’s in it for them if they go along with the change.  Your employees and team are no exception.  They’re biased!  Make sure you communicate with your team so that they realize even if they are not directly benefitting from these changes, they are still benefitting indirectly.  Again, it’s not about who is right, but what is right.  And sometimes that means the business comes before the individual.

If you would like to learn more about my newest presentation, “The Gray Zone: It’s Not Who is Right, but What is Right,” contact me today!  I welcome the opportunity to help you and your organization begin to benefit from improved workplace relationships—and see better results.

Cool Hand Leadership: 3 Steps to Avoid Failures to Communicate

One of the sad truths of the business world is that, no matter how open your lines of communication are, sooner or later a miscommunication is bound to occur.  When these mishaps happen, it can be easy to look at your team and toss them under the bus in your place.  However, you’re still the boss, and as the boss it’s your job to make sure that you are getting through to your employees when delegating tasks.  The buck stops with you.  With that in mind, it’s good to shrink the opportunity for miscommunications in your business.  But where to begin?  Luckily, it’s fairly simple and straightforward.  With three easy steps, you can begin to build stronger communications within your company.

1. Be clear, concise, and observant. 

Make sure that you have a clearly defined vision and understanding of what you’re asking your employees to accomplish—after all, if you lack direction, how are they expected to follow you along to a desired outcome?  While delivering your instructions, keep it short and to the point.  If you go off on too many rambling tangents, your team may have trouble picking out what matters in your instructions.  Use simple language and avoid unnecessarily large words.  Finally, and maybe even most importantly, keep an eye on your employees’ body language.  If they seem unsure, pause and check in: they may have a question they are too self-conscious to ask without prompting.

2. Assume nothing.

It’s easy to fall back into the safety net of acronyms, idioms, and other lingo in your business.  However, just because certain terms and words are common knowledge to you doesn’t mean that they are to everyone.  The same goes with the perceived difficulty of an assigned task: Michael Jordan can dunk a basketball without blinking, but the same can’t be said for most of us.  Make sure that your employee has a full, well-rounded picture of what you’re asking them to do as well as knowing how to do it before sending them off to complete their task.

3. Ask for a summary.

Before dismissing your employee or continuing your day, ask your employee to give you a summary of what you have just instructed them to do.  This can clear up any miscommunications or misunderstandings before anything becomes a problem.  Ask a few questions to make sure that both you and the employee are on the same page.  Remember, you’re not grilling them in an interrogation, but rather working together with your team to keep everyone on track.

Remember—even with these three tips, miscommunications are bound to happen.  We’re only human, after all.  When miscommunications do occur, don’t be so quick to blame your employees.  When your finger is pointing at them, their fingers will all be pointing back at you.  Luckily, with a dose of intention and a whole lot of patience, you can minimize the amount of miscommunications happening within your business and work with your team to build a stronger company.