Twenty years ago, I started my first grown-up job at Luck Stone Corporation, which was then a small, family-owned quarry company headquartered in Goochland County. During one of my interviews, my soon-to-be boss asked me, "How do you know when communication has been effective?"
My answer: "You watch what people do. If people change their behaviors, the communication is effective."
One of the more useful forms of communication is feedback -- information received in response to something. Several weeks ago, the Floricane team received scads of feedback. The first round came from eight other CEOs of small business at a Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce/Virginia Council of CEOs event. The second came when we invited eight of our favorite clients to talk shop with us at our offices. Our team put our cards on the table, and our clients asked questions, provided perspective, and challenged our approach to the work.
It was a relentless discussion. It was oddly affirming.
It's bolstering when people have the capacity to be candid and open about difficult things. It is refreshing when what is shared is not a complete surprise -- our team feel as if we know where the gaps are. The CEOs and our clients helped push our thinking, and challenged us to hear ourselves more clearly.
We spend so much of our time helping our clients hear more clearly. Whether it's individual stakeholder feedback, or coaching, or a 360 assessment, or an organizational assessment, a big part of our job involves helping others see the invisible, listen to what has been previously unheard. As a team, it was interesting to live our own work for a few hours.
What I heard at the Chesterfield Chamber was a prelude to what I heard at our own client roundtable. At a certain moment in time, for a growing business to be successful, the owner has to make a change. By Floricane's calendar, that moment happens about every two years.
A few hours after we wrapped our Floricane client discussion, I got an email from one of the participants. It does a good job of summarizing one of my key takeaways:
Make sure to realize the solution is intelligence and people leverage, not more work for John. The real business tragedy will be if you allow yourself to fall back into the same patterns as before. The pull will be strong to go back to the same old relationship with your business - DON'T. Fixing the problem will be difficult but it will become an investment that you have to make in order to grow the organization that it seems you want to grow.
Will the communication and feedback be effective? Watch our behaviors as we start the new year.
As we turn a hard corner into what feels like an absolutely unpredictable 2017, the pull for all of us will be to go back to the same old relationships -- with ourselves, our jobs, our communities. DON'T. Identify what matters most. Fix the problems. Do the difficult work. Grow the life that you want to grow.
I'm looking forward to the year ahead with all of its uncertainty and opportunity. There is so much transformation waiting to happen. So, take a deep December breath, and prepare to create your own version of transformation. We'll see you in the new year.