Look Them In The Eyes

I have held management positions within a half dozen companies over the last 20 years and no matter how large or small my team was, I have always struggled to communicate efficiently. I have tried weekly staff meetings, daily huddles, and quarterly retreats, but no matter how many calls I made to “check in,” my team members were continually sharing their desire to connect more.

More? I often felt like there was no more to give.

Earlier this year, I discussed this topic with Coleman Ruiz, a friend and business coach, who shared with me a tip that he picked up in the Navy while serving under General Stanley McChrystal. General McChrystal would conduct all briefings via video teleconference (VTC). And what started off as a small group of hand-selected personnel turned into a very large meeting comprised of operators and intelligence gatherers all over the planet. This VTC was an opportunity where everyone could receive the latest information directly from the boss. In turn, the boss could hear directly from the boots on the ground and achieve real-time, situational awareness.

(Learn more about General McChrystal in his book, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complicated World.)

Since we are not operating in clandestine environments and are simply trying to keep the operations team from killing their American Express with crazy travel expenses, Coleman encouraged me to not add another meeting to everyone’s schedule. Rather, he suggested I start to increase communication between teams by taking baby steps and coach on the behavior that I wished to encourage. I started working on this plan by taking all of our currently scheduled conference calls and transitioning them to video conference calls. This way, we could ultimately see each other and better connect to our distributed teammates. I then started recording a weekly “Team Update” where I sat in front of my webcam and recorded a 15-minute video on topics that included policy changes, upcoming projects, team successes, and milestone moments of our fellow teammates. I have successfully distributed one video a week for the last three months—and you aren’t going to believe what happened!

The complaints have stopped, the request for more calls ended, and the guilt of not connecting more was eliminated.

Instead of getting messages about why I don’t talk to people enough, I am now getting messages about areas of the company my team would like to learn more about. I receive encouraging texts about how they feel like they are a part of a team and watch as subgroups are now utilizing video for their meetings. For the first time in this 20+ year career, I feel like I am properly doing my job and removing obstacles in front of EVERYONE on the team (not just the ones I like to BS with).

I would encourage you to start this practice while also reminding you that your teammates aren’t looking for Emmy award winning video production, they simply want the information needed to do their job, the support to make decisions, and for their manager to get out of their way. By talking to them over VTC I can now trust that they have all of the applicable information needed to do their jobs. I feel confident that they have been given every opportunity to speak up if they had any outstanding questions that warrant additional discussion.

I am going to continue my weekly updates and have created a sample video for you here (LINK) that I hope will inspire you to start your own version of the Team Update.

I appreciate you continuing to read my blogs and hope that you are finding value. Please send me a text, email, or smoke signal if you have a topic that you would like me to discuss in an upcoming post. I really enjoy getting your feedback. As a tech nerd, I am also happy to help answer any questions on easy ways you can start to create video messages to your team without adding an additional load to your already packed to-do list.

Until I catch you on the next VTC,