Wednesday, February 3, 2010

To See or Not to See...(continued)

To review, I met with a company that thought they had a training problem...

If you guessed that the performance issues began almost simultaneously with the announcement, you'd be pretty close. From my conversations with some of the managers who were the focus of the issue, I learned that they actually took the news pretty well. They assumed that the acquisition was going to be good for the company even though they had had no conversations with the company President about it. They just had a general good feeling toward the company and the prospects.

However, the people these managers supervised wanted specifics almost immediately. They wanted reassurance that their jobs were safe. They had made concessions over the past couple of years in order to help the company survive some lean times and they felt that they were "owed." When the managers could not provide reassurance (other than from themselves), the "natives got restless" as one of the managers put it to me.

The HR manager who did the original presentation was approached several times about when there would be another meeting with more details. The answer was always "soon." Meanwhile, the President was out of the office more than usual. This, coupled with the lack of more information, fueled the rumor mill.

I think you can see where I am heading with this.

The problem was not one of training. It was a problem with communication. The leaders of the company--the ones responsible for creating the vision for the company--failed in that task. There were good and legitimate reasons for the acquisition and it meant good things for the future of the company. However, that was never conveyed to managers and by extension, the rest of the company. When there is a void in information, people tend to fill that void...and not always with the "best case scenario."

There is damage control to be done now because this situation lasted too long. Meetings are being held with small teams of employees with the President himself. I've coached him to allow a little more "venting" than usual and that was tough for him to accept at first. But, he is willing to engage a little humility in order to engage the employees. It's still a work in progress but there is progress where there once wasn't.

The lesson here is how critical it is for the followers to see what the leader sees. Without that alignment of vision, instead of pulling together, a team will pull apart.