You cannot eliminate negativity in the workplace nor can you stop people from griping. Today, with horrible social media behavior rewarded, it can be even harder to maintain a positive narrative. However, great leadership can strategically manage to reduce the negative influence on their culture by providing continual guidance to their organizations with a simple communication framework:
Simple Strategic Management Communication
Where we are
Where we have been, and
Where we are going - next.
It does not matter if you are a leader of a team, a department or a company when you start talking, your audience has one question dominating their attention: What does this mean to me? Like a dog waiting for you to toss the ball, that is all they are focused on…initially. You must engage them where they are first and then move their attention to where you want it to be. So, toss them the ball, tell them where you see them/their team/their department/their company today; ground them with a shared reality.
Next, move to where you have been. The past is so often forgotten when planning moves our minds to the future. Make the connection for your folks. Quickly review what you said the last time you spoke to them. Acknowledge changes and accomplishments since you last were together. Set context for the evolution you want them to make by honoring the journey. It can just be a few words like, “The last time we spoke, I told you…” or “Since we last met, we have made great progress.” They list the progress. Help your audience shift from their today mindset and prepare to hear something new.
Finally, communicate where you are going and what you need from them next to make this happen. If you are experiencing high change, call it out and acknowledge and appreciate how hard it may be, but speak with optimism and deep respect. Paint the picture of where your strategy development is leading your organization and how important they are in contributing to this journey.
One last thing, negativity is like water, it runs down and fills in gaps that you leave. However, when discussing plans for the future, you cannot fill all the gaps; your plans may not be complete, or they may be confidential. So, what do you do? The rule is if you cannot tell them everything, SHARE the PROCESS. When you get to your last “where we are going” section, share the planning process: how plans are being developed, by whom and when it will be ready to be shared. This approach can provide cover for the gaps, so when questions come up and negativity tries to take hold, it cannot get a good grip and flows away.
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