Breaking The Golden Rule

communication effective communication effective communication skills golden rule human behavior leadership culture poor communication skills poor communications profit profitability profitability killers return on investment Apr 04, 2023
poor communications

Once we’ve come to terms with just how high the cost of poor communication can be, and how any poor communication skills existing in our organizations add fuel to other fires that are killing our profitability, we have plenty of reason to address the lack of communication between our managers and employees! Let’s be honest though, if doing it were as simple as saying it, would there be any need to discuss it here?

We’ve already worked through many of the effects of poor communication in the workplace so I won’t hash them all out again now. What I will do though is suggest that I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone who just wanted to communicate ineffectively with their team - or anyone else for that matter. I believe that all too often, it simply boils down to not having the right tools for the job (or even knowing those tools exist)!

Most everyone I know is familiar with some variation of The Golden Rule; do unto others as you’d have them do unto you… Truth be told, our society would have a lot less crap going on if we all did a better job of following it. But while this may solve a ton of the issues we see in the headlines on any given day, breaking The Golden Rule may be just what we need for addressing the profitability killer that is poor communication!

One evening several years ago, I received a text message from my son asking, “How do I get people to do what I tell them to do?” He was working second shift in a manufacturing facility at the time and it was his first evening filling in as a back-up lead for the assembly line he had worked on. My answer was, “Call me tomorrow morning because that’s not something I can answer in a text.”

When he called the following morning, the first thing I needed to know to have any hope of providing him with solid feedback was why he was asking; did he have team members who weren’t doing what they were required to do or did he believe they were capable of accomplishing more? He was quick to explain that the line team was great! He said they were already the most productive on the shift, but he felt like they could do even better and he wondered how he could bring that out in them. 

As a dad, I still get excited all these years later when I think back to that conversation. The fact that Matt, in his early 20’s at the time, saw more potential in his team and wanted to learn how he could bring it out in them was something I just haven’t seen very often. But to get the results he was hoping for from “having them do what he told them to,” it wouldn’t be as simple as making a blanket statement to them all at the beginning of the shift. And only a few of them would have responded positively to him if he would have communicated with them the way he wanted to be communicated with… Like me, Matt is pretty direct and to the point. He thrives on being challenged and will go out of his way to accomplish a task, especially if someone doesn’t think he can!

Matt certainly could have taken that approach but I’m certain that the results wouldn’t have been anything close to what he was hoping for. Instead, we talked through how he could break The Golden Rule with each member of his team and do unto them as they would want instead of how he would want. Because I knew each of the folks working with him, I was able to give him specific insight that helped him achieve the goal in that initial text message but I was also able to provide him with a simple approach for doing the same thing with anyone else moving forward. He was excited to put it into practice, it was just a matter of understanding how - and we’ll look at that next time!