To Stay Connected, Make Sure You Never Leave the Loop
“Knowledge is power.” Sir Francis Bacon
“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” Anton Chekhov
With all apologies to Sir Francis Bacon, most of us have known that knowledge is power since we were kids. We’d find out a great secret from overhearing mom and dad talk about summer vacation plans and we’d decide to tell our brother, but not our sister, because we knew it would drive her nuts. We had power. Fast forward to our adult years and we still want and, in fact, need to be in the information loop. We’re driven to stay connected. Why? Because accurate, timely information enables us to:
- Contribute more to our teams
- Be excited about our roles and motivated to do great work
- Make more informed decisions about our careers
- Keep our work cutting edge
- Better understand the culture and politics of our workplaces
Being in the loop is important no matter where you stand on the corporate ladder. Executives are obviously going to be in the loop about big picture organizational things just by the nature of their position. However, because some executives focus on the health of the forest rather than the trees, they sometimes lose track of the pulse of their employees.
On the other side of the coin, staff members can get so caught up in their day-to-day work that they don’t pay close enough attention to the vision, goals and direction of the company,. Neither situation is ideal.
How do you stay connected and in the loop?
The question is … are you in the loop or not? Do you know what’s really going on in your organization, or are you just guessing? For many reasons, you may not be getting the information you need to be satisfied and successful. If that’s the case, don’t wait for someone else to fill you in. Take charge, plug in, stay connected and get more information.
- You see substantial change (reorganization, new leadership, downsizing, position changes) but don’t know why it’s happening or what it means
- Others seem to understand organizational culture and politics that leave you clueless
- You constantly read news stories on the company intranet that surprise you
- You meet silence or uncomfortable pauses when you ask about the future
If you’re out of the loop, take steps to get more informed immediately. Here’s how to do it no matter if you’re an executive or staff member:
Look to your professional network of peers
- Ask people from your team and others out to lunch
- Travel with colleagues to meetings across town or out of town
- Attend company or unit social functions, even when you don’t have to
- Listen for clues about the culture and politics of the place
- Read the company newsletters and annual reports
- Schedule time every day just to scan the Internet, professional journals, business magazines, and newspapers for industry news and trends
- If you’re a staff member, find out about the background of the new CEO or VP. If your boss or colleagues don’t know, search the latest company newsletter or homepage for a bio. LinkedIn® is an excellent source for this information. Reach out to make a connection and introduce yourself.
Put on your investigative hat
List a few specific questions you have about the organization and its operations. For example, “What is the plan for staffing of this department two years from now?” or “What new products or services are being considered?”
- Ask these questions of your boss and some veteran colleagues to gain their perspectives
- Talk to people who have left or are leaving the organization and ask why they resigned
- Use the Internet. Try sites like LinkedIn® , Glassdoor or Vault.com that capture information about your company.
- Listen to the latest rumor. There could be a grain of truth in it. Don’t take it as fact, but use it as a starting point for your detective work.
Don’t take rumor or gossip at face value
One dangerous flaw is thinking that you’re in the loop when you’re really just plugged into the office rumor mill. It’s part of being human that when we don’t know the facts about something, we tend to start making things up to fill in the holes. Here’s how it can go:
- Senior leaders think, “It’s too early to tell them.”
- Employees think, “The silence must mean it’s pretty bad.”
- Senior leaders think, “This news is too frightening—we’d better wait.”
- Employees think, “They’re moving the company to Indiana … or India!!!”
Before you know it, the rumor has spread and people are busy updating their résumés and discreetly packing up their desks.
The problem with a rumor is that it’s often grounded in reality. On the other hand, it might be the furthest thing from the truth. If you hear a big rumor, take it to your boss. Check it out before you do anything based upon it.
Give timely information
For managers, supervisors or team leaders … the same rule applies. If you haven’t gathered your people together for a five minute catch-up meeting in more than a month, you’re way overdue. This is something that could happen on a weekly basis.
Finally, for staff members … think about the last time you gave information to your boss, your colleagues or a senior leader. What did they do with it? If you work for a strong company with good management, they listened. And, at least occasionally, they have acted on what you said. Keep at it … your good ideas deserve to be heard.