People crave answers, especially when a sudden, uncertain future appears before them. We as humans are conclusion drawing species and we will never leave dots unconnected. Yes, people will go to extraordinary lengths to connect those dots, even displaying contradictory behaviors in the name of forming a conclusion.
In a 2005 study reported by Communication World Magazine, employees listed their number one preferred source of information as a “meeting with their direct supervisor”, citing it as the most credible. Interestingly, however, employees stated that although they deemed the company “grapevine” as one of the least credible sources of information; however it was their most-used source of initial information-gathering, even prevailing over a meeting with their supervisor.
How Can Leaders Help Connect the Dots:
Ask - “What do you think this means?”
Leaders are always surprised to hear the variety of interpretations that people ascribe to the “same” data. Listen for misinformation and be sure to clarify inaccurate data.
Discuss - How this information will impact the team’s daily work
Identify to what degree the information being discussed will cause a disruption in team members’ daily work tasks. Identify a plan to help minimize the disruption.
Connect - It back to your group’s goals
This is especially important if the information doesn’t seem relevant to the team. Help them see how what they do on a daily basis does connect to the information.
Ask - “Who else needs to know this?”
Often, key groups are overlooked or are brought into the loop late. Your team most likely can help you find the key players who may not yet know information necessary to help your team make an informed decision.
One especially clever leader I know helped her team ease the anxiety of an impending change by asking team members to name the most outlandish rumors that had surfaced related to the change. Not only does this acknowledge the existence of a grapevine, but it can help alleviate the stress associated with inaccuracies of the rumor mill.
The front burner
Before wrapping up the meeting, ask, “When should we reconnect to revisit this issue?” By keeping the issue from fading into the sunset, you signal to your team that you’re committed to helping them work through the issue at hand.
Connecting the dots keeps communication healthy and open in your department…
There is very little leaders can do the slow the speed with which information now travels throughout the workplace. With some advance planning, and a nod to human nature, they can however be prepared to help their teams wade through the onslaught of information in a way that builds team confidence.