The general public, the media and especially members of the U.S. Government have been shocked at President Donald Trump’s propensity to use Twitter multiple times daily in order to make sure people understand how he is thinking. Putting aside whether you like what he is saying or not, it’s impressive how clearly his brief messages have been communicating the general direction that he wants to take the country.
In the past, our government leaders have typically communicated via the popular media outlets, who then provided their ever increasing and polarizing bias on the issues. Realizing the bias, we are then left to decide whether or not we can actually believe what is being said. At an ever increasing rate, we end up being skeptical about what the media is communicating since we are assuming a significant twisting of the facts; if there are any.
Social media has made the problem even worse. This is because literally everyone becomes a journalist and what has emerged recently is the notion of fake news and the full realization that these days you rarely can trust anything that you are reading. This is a very bothersome state for a democracy.
What President Trump is attempting to do is to avoid all of the possible inaccuracies and potential bias in one direction or the other by communicating his views directly to the public in short, understandable phrases. Once again, you may or may not like what is being said, but the fact is you probably understand him pretty clearly. That’s new for U.S politics.
So what can a leader learn from all of this? There is an age-old lesson right in front of us. Specifically, it is dangerous to attempt to communicate a plan for change by trickle down communications. The message gets garbled along the way; the infamous “telephone game” is alive and well.
So….what is the ideal way for a leader to communicate a plan for change? Here are three key steps:
1.) All Employees Need to be Told the Same Message at the Same Time – This can be done by a town hall meeting or an organization-wide email or position paper that goes to everyone at the same time.
2.) Be Very Specific – A detailed description of what the end result should look like is critical. This requires a leader to have thought things out very thoroughly after several iterations with key people in the organization that will be carrying out the plan. President Trump may need some training hereJ.
3.) Follow Up With the Appropriate Measures, Reorganization, and Personnel Assignments – People need to see that this is for real and that immediate action is being taken.
In summary, aloof leaders who sit in their office and pass along vague requests for change to their direct reports, hoping the entire organization will get a clear message, are almost guaranteed to be disappointed in their lack of impact.