Mixed Messages

Mixed messages, have you ever gotten any? As a leader, I bet you never think that you have communicated any. In today’s world we have mixed messages everywhere… They come in the form of visual and verbal.

The visual one’s are sometimes extremely funny!

  • How about when you see a person wearing a “Smaller is better t-shirt” and that t-shirt a XXXL and it is tight on the person? Sitting in the food court of the mall…
  • Ever go to the beach and sitting on the bench are people in normal beach wear (swim suits, sun glasses) and one bench down there is a person dressed for winter (long pants, winter jacket and a wool knit cap)? Which is it…
  • Posted signs do this all the time – How about the “Not an Exit” posted on door – with the “Exit” sign right next to it.. Just look around – I bet there are plenty more examples.

The one’s I really want to discuss in this post are the ones that we get as employee’s or maybe give as managers. More verbal in nature. How about these examples:

  • Performance message that goes like – “good job, but…” The old but sandwich! I wrote in detail on making sure that as a manager you don’t do this.. Check it out!
  • Ever hear – we need to be the best at providing top level quick  customer service (get your respond time down to seconds rather than minutes). In the sentences to follow – the staff is hearing make sure that you take the time to make the customer feel important. Listen to them, relate their words in your communication back.
  • The mission statement says we are going to provide a top level superior education using the best practices to provide an A+ rating. Really wanting all students to work hard, continuing to grow academically and challenging themselves everyday. Sounds good.. But when it comes to providing academic achievement awards – everyone needs to get one (we do live in that world today – everyone needs to get a trophy).  How many top learner’s were there in the class (25/25).
  • Another performance review, but this time it is going over team goals. Using data is a great thing – using the right amount of data is a tricky thing. I happened to work in a group that had data for just about everything. We reviewed it monthly. Each metric had a goal… Where the mixed messages came into play – is when two or more competed with each other. Example – on time delivery, quality and on-budget. It is extremely funny to listen to the managers talk about them, ask questions and then redirect. Great job on 100% on-time delivery, but we had a missing in quality or the cost was a bit too high. Again – that “but” sandwich.

Plenty of this goes on! How do we stop sending and receiving these messages? For me – I do a couple of things…

  • Never use “but” in a sentence… Practice, practice and more practice. I have told my employee’s that if I use “but” they have the opportunity to call it out. Right away!
  • Confused are you? Then ask questions.. I pretty much get confused when I first hear something that is sending a mixed message. It is like my radar – so, stop and get clarity. Ask questions to help you get the understanding necessary to move in the right direction.
  • Call it out! Here is where trust comes into play. Having a good working relationship with your team can make this really easy. Using a sports analogy here – having a way to call foul (or penalty, or throw the flag) is necessary. This opens up the discussion – no one is at fault – we have something that needs to be cleared up.