Management IS Communication

communication Note: Dwight is currently out on leave so we are running some "best of" blog posts from his writing for the Vistage Executive Street blog that you may not have seen before. Enjoy!

There are multiple definitions of “management” including: “The process of dealing with or controlling things or people,” “The responsibility for and control of a company or similar organization,” “the person or persons controlling and directing the affairs of a business, institution,” among others. We say these definitions are hogwash, and for multiple reasons.

The first reason is the idea that when working with teams of people managers can possibly “control” anything. Honestly, it’s hard not to laugh while thinking about it. When was the last time in an organizational setting anyone truly controlled anyone? At best, leaders may be able to encourage, direct, recommend, insist, bully, or worst case, create what we call “vicious compliance,” meaning people will do what you say, but with the least amount of effort, creativity and commitment that they can get away with. Rarely, if ever, do managers at any level actually have “control.”

What we say is management IS communication and good management IS good communication. So what does this mean? At the core, what this means is a good manager is going to understand upstream, downstream and lateral communication flow. In other words, when a topic needs to be addressed, something has changed on a project, or there is relevant news a good manager is going to automatically make an assessment about the directions of communication flow and is going to discern “who needs to know what” to keep the flow of work happening smoothly. He or she is going to understand the consequences of the information they have received to those around them. A good manager is connected enough to his supervisors, executives, direct reports and lateral partners to know very quickly what needs to be communicated and in what format and style so that there is minimal interruption and maximum efficiency. It’s the “up periscope” theory. Rather than immediately focusing on their own piece of the pie, a good manager is going to pause and “look up and out” to see who is affected by change, who needs the input or update, and then he or she is going to get that information communicated effectively.

The key difference between management, good management and great management from this perspective is the effectiveness of the communication. Does the manager have a good gauge to assess how much to communicate, to how many people and through what format? Part of this is cultural. Some organizations collectively “over communicate” usually meaning there are lots of group emails and “reply alls” to those emails and lots of group meetings. Some cultures are more minimalist and insist on real precision as to who needs to know what and if this is misjudged, some wrist slapping usually takes place. Regardless of the culture, a good manager can quickly assess and address the communication needs.

Regardless of whether your title falls in the management or executive level you are in charge of communicating effectively to at least some part of your organization. So how well do you manage communicating to your teams? If there are changes, or there is news about a project do you consider the various streams of communication and who might be affected in the various directions? How good of a manager, or really, ‘communicator’ are you?

It's Time To Renegotiate

As we observe our clients,  and business trends we believe now is the time to renegotiate and "re-contract" all of your relationships.  In our  post called the New Rules from early last year we said, “all bets are off” and "all the rules have changed.”  Given all of the big pictures changes to doing business in the last 18 months or so the New Rules gave us a way to work with our clients to help them navigate the unprecedented challenges. With the new year, new decade and the passage of time we now believe we have reached the next level and it's an important time to re-evaluate and re-contract.  (We also consider this the third step in developing your approach to the year. First step we blogged about was to complete 2009, second step was to create a plan for 2010.) men talkingIt seems to us almost everywhere we look since January 1st there is a new, refreshed attitude, (although we do recognize many are still struggling and we offer our compassion and empathy to those still in the midst of major issues).  We see companies "cleaning their closets," making  final changes to their rosters and negotiating to buy or merge. We  observe people leaving, (or getting ready to leave), their current employment,  and starting new jobs. Overall there seems to be a general shift to action mode with a "let’s get to it" attitude.

We just attended a workshop for Vistage Chairs, (, in the Orange County area this week led by a wise teacher, James Newton of Newton Learning Corp.  During the discussion, James brought up the concept of "re-contracting" with our CEO groups for 2010.  His presentation connected with what I have been experiencing and it has lit a fire to "re-contract" in every area of my life.

There are three fronts to this effort.  The first is to "take the offensive" in areas where your suppliers or partners may be planning on re-negotiating your existing relationships and just haven’t gotten to you yet. Take some time to review these relationships and make sure you are clear on what you want, what you are willing to pay, and how you want to move forward in the future. Be proactive so you aren't caught off-guard and unprepared.

The second is to review and update expectations about how things are being done inside your firm. Work with team leaders, department heads, and/or your executives. Get their take on how things are going in their various areas of responsibility and what they see can be improved in 2010. Make as many areas visible and mutually agreed upon as possible in order to have the greatest level of effectiveness and velocity possible. 

The third is to re-contract your relationships in the rest of your life.  Having authentic conversations during quieter moments regarding mutual expectations and arriving at agreements for who will do what, and how you will solve any breakdowns will take a lot of friction out of your relationships. There will be much more opportunity to enjoy your relationships this coming year if you have taken time to work some things out in advance.

I suggest a very simple formula for re-contracting your relationships: chalkboard I promise1) Take some time to clearly articulate "what I want from you." Make sure you have reflected before the conversation and are very clear about your priorities. Producing a verbal laundry list is likely to be received with overwhelm so be specific. 2) Take time to listen to "what you want from me." It's critical to be open, curious and receptive. You can't fairly expect to successfully re-contract if you aren't able to really hear what people want from you.  3) Discussion - make sure you have allotted enough uninterrupted time for some thorough discussion.  4) Counter offers - this is critical. Be ready and willing to negotiate. 5) Agreement - the goal is to end the conversation with mutual understanding and acceptance.

We'd love to hear about your re-contracting experiences. Let us know how this works for you!

Vistage Announces Selection of Dwight Frindt as Best Practice Chair

(April 29, 2009) Veteran Chair Dwight Frindt has been named Best Practice Chair for South Orange County. Dwight will succeed Bill Oyler, who had been BPC of that region for almost eight years. Bill will continue as BPC for North Orange County, Sacramento/Reno and the San Francisco Bay area. "Bill is so loved and respected by the OC Chairs that the only way they would accept his departure was with an equally stellar veteran Chair, and that is Dwight.," Mary Allan, Senior Vice President for the Western Division, said.

A Chair since 1994, Dwight has facilitated two CEO groups and one Key group. He has been the recipient of the Vistage annual Chair Excellence Award 11 times and is consistently ranked as one of the Top 20 Chairs. In 2007 he received the Master Chair award. In addition to Chairing his CEO and Key groups, Dwight is active in leadership development through his company, 2130 Partners.  For 25 years he has been involved in the Hunger Project and has traveled extensively in support of this mission.

"Dwight is an outstanding leader and has been a highly respected Chair in the community," Mary Allan said. "I'm thrilled that Dwight has agreed to accept the role of BPC and make a difference in the lives of our Orange County Chairs - he is a great addition to the ranks of our Best Practice Chairs."