So there are lots of people making a whole lot of noise. It’s “We need to do this”, “We need to do that”. And it sounds as if the world will surely come to an end if someone does not act upon this noise right fu**ing now, or preferably yesterday. Who this “someone” is remains unknown, but it’s seldom the person making the noise who plans to do the actual work. Sometimes, these people are correct and are actually on to something important, sometimes they’re just making noise so that they appear to be worth their salaries. In some instances you can tell what’s going on by looking around the room. If there’s a big shot around every time the noise starts you can rest assured it’s the latter.
The big problem with all this noise is that it wastes a lot of time. Your time. And people around you naturally pick this noise up, since it involves them as well, it will probably be up to them to do the work, after all. So they start to feel some unwarranted stress, due to a lot of noise with regards to an issue that might be a non-issue, or if indeed it is a real issue, it’s certainly a question for the future. Maybe a not so distant future, say tomorrow, but the future none the less. We know this because nothing can ever be done about a problem without at least a few moments of focused thought. And when something really needs to be done we owe it to our coworkers to have created a clear signal. We accomplish this by having a sit down, talking about the issue in a focused way. Your team deserves to carry on with their work at hand in a good work environment. It’s your job as a manager to provide this for them.
So all this noise wastes your time, is bad for morale and causes unwarranted stress. We need to get rid of it. These are the steps I take to create signal from noise:
1. Cut the noise maker off mid-sentence. Don’t worry about being impolite. If it’s important to this person, you are merely helping him or her make it happen. If it’s just someone making noise to sound important, he or she deserves to be cut off. We have zero tolerance for office politics. If you’re up to it you can slowly take off your imaginary gloves, slap the noise maker in the face and state cooly with a extremely aristocratic and british accent:
You Sir, are a noise maker! I will tolerate such insolence no further. We must now duel to the death armed with sharpened paperclips. En garde!
Or maybe not…
2. You cut the noise maker off by telling him or her to schedule a meeting – you can be polite about this, as in: “this sounds really interesting, schedule a meeting and we’ll talk some more”. If it’s important enough to this person, he or she will do this. If not – problem solved.
3. If a meeting is scheduled – make sure something is decided (analyze further, involve more people, execute and so on). This decision must be written down – if it’s not on paper it doesn’t exist, and the meeting never happened. Also make sure it’s clear who’s responsible to take this further. If no one is taking the lead, nothing will happen.
So there you have it. From noise to signal. Engagez votre paperclip monsieur!