This question may seem a little like mind reading, and at times it is. Leaders who do not clearly articulate what they want are hard to follow, and sometimes it may indeed seem like mind reading.
This becomes even more challenging when they change their mind on a dime and “forget” to tell their teams that there has been a change in direction.
Leaders who fall into this category are either intense thinkers who share pieces of ideas that are in formation or have scattered attention whose patterns are hard to follow.
If you fall into either of these categories, how can you help your direct reports follow your thoughts? You may think it’s their issue, which at times, it is. But if your people are spending time wondering “what is she really thinking?” you need to clarify.
When I’ve raised this with clients, often the they’re surprised that this is even an issue. They think they are crystal clear and had no idea that their lack of clarity was even an issue.
+ Think through what you want to communicate before you do make an announcement or request something from your people. Speaking on the fly might come back and bite you.
+ If you need to change direction, state what is obvious to you and don’t leave them guessing. Remember, what is obvious to you isn’t necessarily obvious to others.
+ Be accessible so that people aren’t timid about coming to you for clarification. If your door is shut all the time (real or imagined), people may be reticent to approach you.
+ Be open to feedback if your team perceives that you’re yoyoing. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to point out that you keep changing direction to make you realize the impact on others.
Communication isn’t linear, so paying attention to what and how you say something can make a huge difference to your staff. As with many things, a little self-awareness goes a long way.