Recently, I completed my semi-annual round robin trip visiting our valued clients and, as always, I learned a tremendous amount. I always look forward to these face-to-face visits as they provide critical information and feedback that you simply cannot get via email, phone calls—or even Skype!
Among the pieces of information I solicit are:
- As a company, how are we doing for you?
- What we may do different, or what new need has arisen?
- What new business changes have occurred or will?
- Are you just satisfied or loyal?
- Are we truly executing on our value proposition to you?
Throughout these conversations, I noticed one common theme kept recurring: Most of us we are still increasingly doing more with less and having to do it faster. There is not a company in any of our client industry sectors that is not feeling the stress and strain of increased competitiveness in this global economy, a freeze or decrease in resources, and increased time spent managing consultants.
A term was coined in the early days of the great recession: “The New Normal.” Well, it sure appears there is one. Whether you are part of a $25 billion dollar company or a $2.5 million dollar company, you can be assured that your peers are all sharing in this new normal.
So, if we’re all in the same boat, and if there doesn’t appear to be a “return to the old normal” coming soon, what are we to do? In Keith McFarland’s book Bounce, he speaks of RESILIENCE. According to McFarland, resilience is the ability of a company, a team, a person to see the situation as the situation, as a separate movement and dynamic from you as a person and one that you as a person can manage.
I would add that to affect resilience, we must look to the productivity and spirit of the team. I have clients that spend 20 weeks a year overseas, alone and somewhat detached from their core team. We’ve made everything in our life mobile: laptops, phones, video, etc. So we must figure out how to make the productivity of our teams mobile. We cannot allow them to simply stay in the office while we’re interacting with the new normal.
So how do we do this? I believe the secret sauce is communication. We humans are not pieces of technology that can easily be compacted, made slimmer, stuffed in a laptop case, designed to go faster, cost less than last year’s model, etc. We humans are as much communication-based organisms as we are carbon-based ones. But what do we do? When things get hectic, our teams get thin and spread out, and we communicate LESS!
The spirit and productivity of team relies on our ability to communicate well and often. In the office, we rely on body language and tone of voice to augment the 7% of communication that’s relayed through the words we speak. All three are vital and yet we still screw it up. But, we at least have the opportunity to correct it while together in the office. While performing as a thinly spread, detached team we may only have tone of voice or only words; so the opportunity for breakdowns in communication is huge and with that comes a decrease in the productivity and spirit of the team.
My thoughts on this? To manage within the New Normal it takes more frequent communication, not less, and it must be of the best kind; good old fashion face-to-face communication. In Pat Lencioni’s book Death by Meeting he doesn’t suggest we hold less meetings—he recommends more of them! I believe we must discipline ourselves to carve out the time to relate and communicate with all the stake holders in our businesses at some dedicated frequency. 30-60 minutes a week is all it should take—let’s face it, we can spend more time than that playing Angry Birds!
Try scheduling weekly 30-60 minute face-to-face meetings with your team, and see how your communication and resilience improves. Who knows: We may even get more done with less after all!
Let us know how this works for you; we’d love to see your comments below.