In an interesting post today at Slow Leadership, author Carmine Coyote describes four laws of information flow:
- First Law: Upward flows will contain only good news
- Second Law: Downward flows will be limited unless they are negative
- Third Law: Sideways flows will depend on trust and liking
- Fourth Law: Bad news travels farther and faster than good
In describing these tenets as based in human nature (we only share with those we like, we always want to be seen in the best light, we never want to be “the bearer of bad news,” etc.), it makes sense that:
“If you want to get good information, make yourself liked and trusted, whether youâ€™re in a boss or a subordinate relationship with the person who has the data.”
“…there is a continual skewing of data towards the negative, especially over the short term. If a new initiative is launched, the quickest feedback will be the most extreme, whether positive or (especially) negative. That sometimes leads to organizations and people making bad judgments. Ideas are dropped on the basis of quick feedback that suggests problems. The good news takes its time to filter through and by then itâ€™s too late.”
Slow leadership, then, is giving information time to develop, bubble and get to you in its entirety.
But that seems (pardon me) slow. In today’s competitive, information-rich and time-starved economy, I believe there is a better way. And sometime I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but I’m subscribing to the basic law of training:
Tenets for Enterprise 2.0 Communication Leadership
- First Law: Empower your employees.
- Give them the communication tools that will:
- Give them a voice (like blogs, wiki, collaboration and email tools)
- Track conversations productively (and “just in time”) by subscribing to them (via RSS)
- Set boundaries (legal and ethical as well as brand…) so everyone knows what’s out of bounds to talk about. (Trust me… Your PR group isn’t the only group who needs to know communication boundaries any more.)
- Second Law: Tell the truth.
- Employees can smell inauthenticity and untoward behavior a mile away. Don’t expect them to let inaccuracies (no matter how small) stand. It compromises their integrity and yours. And remember Coyote’s Fourth Law, above.
- Third Law: Expect communications.
- Employees should be required to communicate with you / your customers / your partners / and each other in written form, captured in a knowledgebase. This goes especially for large organizations.
- Fourth Law: Be responsive.
- This is not to say you cut off projects or people at the first negative flow of information. Reach out whenever something bubbles up and do something like:
- Ask for help - in a communicative organization, someone’s likely to have encountered a similar issue, and can recommend options.
- Set the record straight - rumors are often more rampant when ignored.
- Admit mistakes - if something bad happens, deal with it. Again, issues come and go quickly in today’s information rich economy.
I’m a big proponent of quickly capturing, assessing and addressing issues as they arise.
Where does slow come in? Every decision, every word, every communication you build for a lifetime contributes to your communication leadership resume.
Over time, you’ll know information will flow up, down, sideways and absolutely hit the fan once in awhile.
How you deal with it will define you, and perhaps even set you apart as a wonderful example of human nature - evolved.