Leading people up the garden path

The other day I was driving up the freeway. When I went to turn off the freeway I realised that I had had my left indicator on for the entire way.  I was singing pretty loudly so I didn’t hear the click click of my indicator.

I suddenly felt terrible. All the other poor drivers on the freeway had probably been waiting for me to turn left for about 15 kilometres. What a relief when I finally did.

I work with a number of managers who accidentally give misinformation to their teams. They say ‘do what I say’ but then immediately break their own rules.

One manager recently told me that he tries to have a relaxed office but then people take advantage of him. His problem is that he is giving off mixed messages. This is a relaxed workplace but it’s not in certain circumstances; and we’ll know what those circumstances are when they arise. What does relaxed mean? How is a staff member meant to know the boundaries of what will be tolerated and what won’t.

It’s not the staff member’s fault if they take the concept of “relaxed” too far if you have never set any boundaries.

People love rules. They love to know where they stand. For example, we all know the road rules, even those of us who don’t drive. We know what to expect; we notice when people break the rules or are deliberately abusive of the rules. Rules make us feel safe. It helps us manage people’s expectations.

So if you put the left indicator on, it is reasonable for everyone to assume that you are about to turn left within a short period of time.

Don’t mislead people. Be clear. Manage people’s expectations. Don’t say you are one thing; when you are not. Talk it out, write it down and don’t assume your staff know what is going on in your head if you haven’t communicated your boundaries.

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