- First, information overload. The media's focusing more and more on over-the-top, in-your-face conflict to get over all the noise in our information-overload culture. And the news cycle is now 24x7, so it's constant.
- Second, social media and blogs. Now each of us has a booming voice that can be heard anywhere in the world. So we're all out there on the Internet telling our story - talking, texting, tweeting - except we're not really listening anymore.
- Third, political correctness. Everything makes somebody uncomfortable. Everyone's got something to bitch and moan about.
You see, true communication is real-time, back and forth, one-to-one. Not one-to-many or many-to-one, which is mostly what we do these days. Conflict resolution, planning, decision-making - the way humans actually resolve problems - requires that we actually sit in a room together and focus. That's called communication.
Oh sure, the world will continue to rotate on its axis just fine the way things are going. But when it comes to human organizational structures - like families, businesses, and companies - I think they sort of break down over time without real communication.
Like it or not, we have meetings - one-on-one, staff, department, all-hands, company-wide - for a reason. That's how we get things done. We may mismanage our meetings and waste a lot of time, but just try to get anything done without them. It simply doesn't work.
And that brings us to:
Meetings Are Good and Other Unpopular, Counter-Cultural Management Tips
- Meetings are good. Neither "one-to-many" nor "many-to-one" communication constructs - like email, intranet, crowd-sourcing - work for planning, decision-making, conflict resolution, negotiating, or any of the critical functions that businesses need to operate effectively. They all require real-time, back-and-forth communication between people who are actually sitting in a real or virtual room together - focused and engaged, i.e. not tweeting, texting, and emailing.
- Organizations need organization to survive. Seriously. There's a movement afoot to socially reengineer companies, make them more democratic, embrace crowd-sourcing, that sort of thing. Um ... idiotic doesn't even begin to express what a bad idea that is. If you want to see how well that turns out, check out A Day in the Life of a Democratic Workplace. Read my lips: organizations need organizational structure, hierarchy, management, and real communication, to get things accomplished. Period.
- Keep the media - social and otherwise - out of the workplace. I know, I know, this is going to be wildly unpopular. I don't care. Aside from obvious functions that are directly involved with the media and social media, nobody should be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or doing any of that stuff when they're at work. It'll improve employee effectiveness and, who knows, people may come to value the "down time" from information overload.
- Cut everyone some slack on Friday. This one's bound to be popular with employees and unpopular with bosses. But having been a boss for almost my entire career, I give it a big thumbs up. Dress casual, walk around a bit, take your people out to lunch, or do the old Friday beer bash thing, whatever. Cut everyone some slack on Friday and you'll get far more from them the rest of the week plus you'll all actually get to know each other better, which is always a good thing.
- Leave all the controversial, polarizing stuff in the parking lot. Politics, religion, social issues, political correctness, all that incessant whining and complaining we hear all day every day from the 24x7 news cycle, can it. None of that stuff belongs in the workplace. If you want to goof off, by all means, share intimate details of your personal life with coworkers. Be my guest. Just stick to juicy stories, not big hairy controversies.
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Image strocchi via Flickr