In a world where everyone is constantly bombarded with messages via e-mail, voice mail, memos, reports, online databases, procedures manuals, and social media tools, it can be difficult to decide what to share at what point to keep the team informed without creating a constant state of information overload.
It’s equally difficult for team members to deliver great service and fulfill promises if they don’t have ready access to the information they need, and the time lost in searching for information can become a major efficiency drain on the credit union.
So what’s a leader to do?
First, make a distinction between data and information. Data is raw. It hasn’t been processed and turned into information–defined as processed data that supports team members performing their jobs. As a leader, your job is to analyze the data and use it to produce information in the form of policies and procedures that guide the work of the team. While team members need and deserve explanations that help them understand the decisions you make using the data you have, when it comes down to communicating what it means, they need the information, not the data.
Second, decide who needs to know what information when. There is a natural tendency to want to share everything with everyone as soon as possible once data has been analyzed and information created. But this is often not the best or most logical approach. One of the most important jobs of the credit union leader is to define the relative importance of various pieces of information to the team and communicate what team members need to know in the most effective and efficient manner possible. The point here is not to intentionally hide information that team members may be interested in, but rather not to confuse making information available with communicating every detail to every team member. Most of your team just wants the information they need to do their jobs and they rely upon you to keep them informed about that. They don’t want more information that requires them to process and make decisions about what matters and what doesn’t.
Third, remember that less is almost always more. At the core of this entire discussion lies a very simple notion–we have a tendency to over-communicate which can confuse the message and leave team members wondering what to do. A quick way to consider whether this is happening in your credit union is to take a look at how many messages have been sent to your managers and frontline employees in the last 30 days. If you review those messages, how many of them are data versus information? Were all of the messages truly necessary for all of the team members to receive? Did they help the team members do their jobs or did they create less clarity and more confusion? Were all of the messages even received by those who needed them?
Fourth, implement an effective system for sharing information. The traditional staff meeting where the leader walks the team through a pile of information that they “need to know,” then relies on those in the meeting to disseminate it throughout the credit union has never been very effective. Once staff members return to their day-to-day duties, the information they were given in the meeting takes a back seat to serving members, managing their teams, and handling unexpected developments. As a result, information that was intended to be communicated quickly and consistently throughout the credit union is released as time permits, which may or may not be in time for it to have the intended impact. The solution is developing a simple system that gets the information out to the team members who need to know it, without allowing the day-to-day activities to get in the way.
ACTION ADVICE: Invest some time in reviewing communications within your credit union. If communication is often cited as a concern by your team members, consider whether you are communicating data or information, whether the right people are getting the right information at the right time, whether too many messages are being communicated creating confusion, and how well your system for sharing information is working. Chances are with a little effort you can increase efficiency by distributing less information and focusing on the most important messages that need to be shared.
It’s Your Turn…What are your experiences with regard to communicating information to your team? Do you think you might be distributing too much information, or perhaps too much data and not enough information? Please share your insights with us, along with any examples that might help us all improve our internal communications.