Golden Rule of Managing Up

Over-communicate. It’s better to tell someone something they already know than to not tell them something they needed to hear.” — Alex Irvine

The biggest lesson I’ve learned as CEO is the art of over-communicating. I’m constantly repeating the vision of the company to our team. When I thought I couldn’t over-communicate anymore, I would reiterate the vision again.

I noticed a funny thing begin to happen. People started to understand what and more importantly why we were doing things. The message was trickling throughout the entire company. People would repeat to each other what I was repeating to them.

No amount of over-communication is too much when alignment is at stake.

As a leader, it’s my responsibility to articulate a focused strategy that is communicated clearly and consistently throughout the company. This aligns everyone, providing a shared direction for all teams, which allows us to move fast and focus on what matters the most.

Over-communication only works as a two-way street.

As much as I am over-communicating to my team, I can not stress the importance of managing up by over-communicating. It’s a skill, like no other, that when mastered will make a dramatic difference in your company’s culture.

The majority of things that have broken down internally did so because of a lack of communication. As a manager, I’ve realized that it’s impossible to live in a world without surprises or bad news. But, constant over-communication will diminish surprises while helping to clear out roadblocks, cope with bad news and celebrate wins.

Everyone from the CEO of Netflix to an intern at a startup has to master the golden rule of managing up by over-communicating. I’ve included some tips on how you can apply this skill to your day-to-day:

  1. Keep It Simple
    Over-communicating doesn’t mean communicating everything; it means communicating the right things effectively. Having a simple framework is the quickest way to structure your points and give updates. It’ll allow your manager to prioritize what’s important for him/her and hone into areas of interest without having to figure it out. Remember, less is more.
  2. Sync Early and Often
    If you are unclear of a direction or strategy, sync early and often. Ask lots of follow-up questions, challenge each other, and arrive at the best possible idea. Then apply a simple framework that allows everyone to over-communicate.
  3. Surprises are OK
    It’s impossible to live in a world without surprises or bad news. Whether, it’s good news or bad news, don’t wait until the last minute to deliver it. If you break the ‘no surprises’ rule and you have to deliver bad news, come prepared with other possible solutions.

No matter your role in your company, you can never over-communicate. You may think you sound like a broken record but that’ll be the farthest from the truth. Keep repeating yourself until you can barely stand to hear yourself anymore. Then, keep repeating yourself!

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