Thumbs Up for a ‘Heads Up’
By Phyllis Ehrlich
Group Vice President, Spectrum Reach
This week I encountered a situation that reminded me of the importance of thoughtful business communication. During a late afternoon group leadership video call, I learned about a departmental reorganization that was going to significantly impact my new Client Success team and me. Without any input or advance notice, some of my most trusted and favorite business partners were no longer going to support me. My heart sank, and blood rushed to my face. I could barely contain my surprise and initial disappointment, which was quickly followed by anger. The rest of the half hour call seemed interminable.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A HEADS UP
After the call ended, I quickly picked up the phone and called the department leader to express my initial concerns. For weeks I had been asking for clarity and was coyly told news was coming soon. He reassured me that my team was actually being given additional support and that my trusted business partners would still be able to lean in as needed. After thinking about it overnight, what really bothered me was the lack of a courtesy heads up. How could a close colleague for the last 10 years have not given me advance notice about the announcement and the changes he knew were going to be a significant change in personnel supporting my team?
DON’T REACT TOO QUICKLY
In retrospect, it would have been better to absorb the news before quickly making the first phone call. Generally acting or reacting too quickly to surprising news or changes is not a wise idea. Take a deep breath and look at the situation from both or even multiple points of view. Always place yourself in the other person’s shoes. How will the announcement affect them? Sometimes communicating difficult decisions, especially if made by more senior leaders, is not easy for the person having to deliver the news.
CLEAR THE AIR
The next morning I scheduled time with my colleague to clear the air. If he had reached out before the group call, my initial reaction would have been different. It would have reinforced our trust as well as given me time to privately process the news.
One-on-one real conversations (not email or texts) go a long way to build and strengthen business relationships. They are especially important as many of us work virtually and need to make a concerted effort to stay connected with key colleagues and partners.
It is truly amazing how much power you have in guiding the narrative with your colleagues by thinking first and coming up with a strategy to address potential conflicts. The result is most gratifying to say the least.
And don’t forget: You can use the same approach in your personal life to strengthen important relationships with family and friends.