The best way to avoid gridlock in internal negotiations is to maximize information flow. The free exchange of ideas and opinions are often the explosive fuel required to break through contentious situations. Unfortunately, individuals prevent this critical free flow by:
- Failing to give others the information they need to get the job done efficiently when they need it.
- Being unclear about their expectations of each other, which inevitably sows the seeds of frustration and confusion.
- Withholding important information from each other, either accidentally or knowingly.
- Failing to assert their opinions because they feel that others will reject them, often keeping extremely important insights from ever being utilized.
- Making requests of others without providing enough background information. Often, we underestimate others’ ability to help us when we need it. If we don’t give them enough background information, we’re only going to harm ourselves.
- Saying,“No, I can’t do that,” rather than exploring the situation and looking for alternative solutions. Sometimes, a team culture needs to transform from being so self-serving and focused on personal limitations into one that focuses on team success.
Tips for Maximizing Information Flow
Organizational change doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s difficult to force it in the short-term without a clear plan for change. The following tips are a great way to not only maximize the flow of information in your organization but to stimulate a productive change in your team’s ability to get things done.
Organize meetings to kick off projects in which key information is shared, deliverables and time frames are discussed, and questions are answered.
The legendary businessman and former Intel CEO Andy Grove spoke very highly of organized meetings in his 1995 book High Output Management. Grove noted that meetings were some of the most important vehicles for distributing information in both directions, where both managers/leaders could learn from their employees and vice versa.
The most effective meetings discuss material that has already been previously distributed and consumed. Be sure to make sure all key individuals are aware and educated on what the meeting will be and come loaded with ideas and a willingness to solve problems.
Don’t just discuss roles and responsibilities. Describe your expectations about the deliverables and deadlines of the project.
Don’t let your team get lost in the trees and miss the forest. By describing what outcomes you expect, you’re giving your team something to aim for. This is far more effective than having them robotize themselves into the rote responsibilities of a single role.
Rather than providing general background information, provide it in the specific context of what they need to get their part of the job done.
One of the best ways to communicate information is to front-load as much of the thinking efforts as possible. Make as many connections as you can between the background information and each individual team member’s role, in order to provide some context.
Doing so will help them understand the scope of the problem and use their brains to think forward, rather than spending brain energy to simply retrace your steps.
For example, in preparation for a team-delivered customer presentation, the salesperson tells each team member what their role in the presentation is and then provides them with the background information needed to help them give a presentation that is on target.
Ask quieter individuals for their ideas and opinions. Don’t wait for them to speak up.
You’ll notice that many groups often take on an idea hierarchy where the more assertive and vocal members reign king. As useful as their opinions may be, the sheer fact that they’re more assertive and louder doesn’t mean their ideas are better than the quiet members.
As a leader, it’s your job to bring out the absolute best of your team. Part of this means urging quieter individuals to voice their ideas and opinions. This not only helps you get a much more collective solution by tapping into all the brains in your team, but it also helps the quieter individuals become more engaged with the issues at hand.
Ask before telling. Rather than jumping to a solution yourself, ask for input from others.
This will help you develop a better solution and, at the same time, build commitment from other team members to implementing it.
Use eMail, voice mail, and other means of communication to keep others informed about important developments
Maximizing information flow is more than simply dishing out information once– it means keeping information flowing from both directions at all times. Today’s communication technology landscape is the most connected it has ever been, and there’s no reason your teams shouldn’t leverage the wide variety of solutions on the market.
The above strategies can be implemented in a short period of time. The free flow of information is a critical component to a successful highly functioning team. As a leader, you need to be able to maximize the distribution of information between all relevant parties.