I used to be very transparent with my team about customers’ expectations for their projects.
Let’s say the customer was demanding, or the spec was unusually rigorous, or the deadline was urgent – I communicated all of that to my team, thinking that the extra information would inspire them to do good work.
Turns out that conscientious employees are easily stressed. They care, therefore they worry; they worry, therefore they second-guess themselves. Far from being a recipe for success, an anxious mind on high alert makes more mistakes than a loose one would.
Rather than conveying customers’ demands to my team, I’ve learned to absorb them. I’m a buffer, not a transmitter.
Part of my job is to keep customers happy. I’m communicating with them, scheduling their projects, managing their concerns, and talking about their applications. Then, I distill all of that information – requests, demands, complaints, praise, needs – into data. I strip it of its emotion and urgency, and I turn it into dates and work orders.
My team’s job is to show up and practice their trades, 8 hours a day.
When I hand my floor managers the daily schedule, I’m not telling them how many previous versions of it existed. I’m not sharing how many phone calls it took to nail down delivery dates. I’m not talking about who’s mad, or who’s in a rush, or why we’re spraying white today instead of next week like I’d originally planned to do. They don’t need to be thinking about any of that.
I want my team to be focused on pretreatment and mil thickness, not John Q Customer’s temper.
Managers: if you’re lucky enough to head up a team that’s emotionally invested in its work, consider becoming a buffer. Protect their time. Manage their stress. Absorb distractions. Create an insular environment in which they can use their talents, uninterrupted.
Not everything needs to be communicated.