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Independent Business Association of Wisconsin

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Charting a Course Forward in 2022, Means Using All the Tools Available to You

Tim Dittloff, Full Sail Leadership Academy

What tools are you using as you plan how 2022 will unfold in your business and personal life? 

If you are like most business leaders you are relying on sales projections, cost analysis, competitive analysis, and other market-based data. Often, leaders forget the most basic tools available. Our most basic tools in planning for success in 2022 might just be empathetic listening and active communication. The best tools for a successful 2022 may just be our ears and our heart. 

I have been a crew member on racing boats where the skipper and first mate belittled new crew members for mistakes and questions. When the new crew members held their questions or acted timidly due to fear of failing; accidents and dangerous situations usually followed close behind. Their fear and timidity put the other crew member’s lives at risk.

In December of 2014, the $6 million dollar racing yacht “Vestas Wind” crashed onto a shoal in the Indian Ocean while traveling at a speed of 22 knots (25mph). The crew failed to check “old fashioned” paper charts and simply relied on what they saw on their chart plotter. Most importantly the navigator failed to communicate his lack of checking all the details until after the accident. They knew the mission, but failed to share information. Often sharing information falls apart when there is a lack of trust, respect, and lack of candor. This leads in plans for success being tossed upon the rocks just like the Vestas Wind. 

The investigation into the crash of Asiana Flight 214 in July 2013 concluded: “Among the other issues raised by the investigation are some that long have concerned aviation officials, including hesitancy by some pilots to abort a landing when things go awry or to challenge a captain’s actions.” Three people died in this crash and two hundred people were seriously injured.

In 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill occurred due to “a failure to share critical information from their onshore staff, as well as reports from their drilling partner” according to US Coast Guard reports. Sadly, eleven men lost their lives due to this communication failure and almost five million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

Fifteen years ago, I worked for a former three-star Army general. We were having a discussion of a potential move that would take me from managing a territory to working on the corporate staff marketing team. I was asked to name who would be key players on my potential staff and who may need to move on. Knowing the General had his own opinion, I asked: “Sir, how candid can I be?” I will never forget his response when he said “In the military, we have a motto that says ‘lack of candor can kill'” I was then told that total candor is what he expected. This experience would turn out to be one of my best experiences in learning. Second only to the lessons learned while sailing.

Beating the Great Resignation

We are currently in the middle of what social scientists are calling “The Great Resignation.” The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over four million Americans quit their jobs in August 2021. That is 3% of the entire workforce. An additional four million quit in April. Now we are up to 6% of the workforce. That number is projected to rise in the months ahead. 

Imagine the impact. Derek Thompson, from The Atlantic, paints this picture: “…one in 14 hotel clerks, restaurant servers, and barbacks said goodbye in a single month.” You have felt this. Longer wait times at restaurants. Low levels of inventory. “Now Hiring” signs are everywhere. With sign-on bonuses.

This may be what Malcom Gladwell calls a cultural tipping point. 2020 crashed through our neatly ordered living rooms. Research studies show that culture “tips” in a new direction when 25 % – 35% of people walk down a different path than the current status quo. While we may not be at the tipping point; overall, a considerable number of industries may be on the brink. If you are a leader in an organization or an entrepreneur – how does this make you feel? Anxious? Concerned? Hopeful? Optimistic?

The Great Resignation may just be the wind your sails need. The authors of the best-selling book Crucial Conversations say it well. “Respect is like air. If it is present, nobody thinks about it. But if you take it away, it’s all that people can think about.” This begs the million-dollar question – what makes people feel respected in general and in the workplace in particular? The answer is simple. But do not confuse simple with easy. The key to finding the answers is going back to the basic tool in planning. Our ears. Listening to what team members want is crucial. 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Find Out What It Means to Them

If you swim through the sea of content on “respect in the workplace,” you will find one common theme beneath the surface. Communication. People want to know they are seen. They want to feel like they matter. Employees want their employer to embrace the challenge of work/life harmony – with them. This only happens through empathetic listening and active communication. Communication is more than the act of speaking, listening, or body language. Though all are required and essential to effective communication, more is required.

Healthy communication requires a heart that desires to see other people. To respect them. To empathize. To try to understand the perspective of another. Further, good communicators appreciate different forms of communication. Written. Interpersonal. Public. Nonverbal. The leader’s job is not to communicate as a salesperson, but more as an ally who recognizes what different people need, to feel heard and respected. Comprehensive communication runs deeper than form or skill. Timing and purpose are essential. Healthy leaders intuitively sense the difference between the time to cast vision, address conflict, offer encouragement, and more.

Can you see the opportunity on the horizon? Workers across the country are demanding respect. Respect demands communication. Without respect and communication, workers will continue to leave businesses. In a number of businesses, the labor shortage will put the business in peril of running aground. You can keep your business from being like the “Vestas Wind” by charting a course for success,  using your ears and your heart to show your team that you truly value them.

Tim Dittloff is CEO of Full Sail Leadership Academy. He can be reached by email by clicking here.


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