One of the most important parts of any job, whether you are an employee, manager or executive is communication. Without regular communication among all the parts of your company, projects will fail, tasks will go incomplete and business will suffer. Furthermore, as an employee, if you are not communicating with your manager enough to know that you are doing the most critical work of the moment, you risk your job, as well. Have you talked with your manager today? Managers? Have you talked with your employees today? Does everyone know the critical path through this day, this week , the month? If not, why not?
Two different paths
One of the most common problems in any department, whether high-tech IT or traditional accounting, is employees who don’t know what work they should be doing. If the goals of management are not being adequately communicated to the staffers, then there is almost no hope of accomplishing those goals. Yet, I see this nearly every day in every type of company.
So, what is an employee to do. First, talk to your manager. Talk to them until you have a clear idea what they expect, what goals they need to accomplish and even how they might like to see them accomplished. In some cases, you might have to help your manager put these goals into words. Not every manager is the best communicator, even though they might be very good at their job in other ways. You don’t want to harass your manager, but you do need to make it clear that without direction from them, you might not be focusing on the most critical work of the department. External pressures from other departments, clients and upper-level executives can easily distract you without a clear mandate from your immediate manager.
Confusion from above
Of course, in some cases, your manager might not understand the goals of her position, let alone yours. I am sure you have seen this in departments that seem to drift from one crisis to another, never sure what is most important from day to day. This could be the fault of your immediate manager, but blame can often be laid at the foot of upper management, as well. Just as you need to communicate with your manager, executives need to communicate with their CEO and vice versa. Miscommunication at the top simply filters downward, growing more confused from level to level.
If you are stuck in a company such as this, you might consider starting a new job search. While companies can often blunder along for years without clearly communicated goals, they will eventually fail in some way. Worse still, your work will become much more difficult, since you are always searching for clarity among the fog of management instead of simply doing the work that most needs done.
What to do?
Let us assume that you are blessed with a good manager who clearly understands the task at hand. Set up a meeting with him or her specifically to discuss the goals of the department. Hammer out the top 3 goals and then communicate them to everyone else in the department. Sure, there will be other on-going work that conflicts with these goals, but that simply must be done. You will be able to do them and return to working on the goals again. Once you have established your most important goals, you have somewhere to return your focus, once the crisis has passed, instead of simply moving onto the next crisis.
Most importantly, if either you, you co-coworkers or your manager feel that goals have changed, either due to information from above or a change in circumstances, it is time to meet again and re-evaluate the top 3 goals immediately. You don’t want to be working towards a goal that has been rendered unnecessary. Don’t simply continue out of inertia. Stop, re-evaluate and then go back to work on the important tasks, as you now see them.
Communication, anywhere in the business hierarchy is not simply something you do once and then forget. Companies don’t create one advertisement for their products and then stop. No, you need to communicate every day, every week, every month — however often it is necessary to insure that everyone, from the top to the bottom of the organization knows exactly what they are trying to accomplish, both individually and collectively.