Document to Dominate: How Leaders Leverage Documentation at Work.
Is there such a thing as over-communicating? Sure, there is. However, the power of over-communicating in specific situations at work can be the difference in whether things go well or they go south. Let me explain.
In a recent meeting with my intern, we discussed how important it is to overcommunicate and use documentation as a means to follow up with people you work with. As a leader with 25 years running a company and leading a team, I can tell you firsthand how many problems we avoided using “The Pen”, to build a culture of accountability.
If you want to become a high performer and stand out on your team, apply this discipline and be patient. I guarantee you’ll see results, position yourself in a positive light, and make a lasting impression with your direct report.
Document factual conversations: When working with anyone at work, whether it be a boss, manager, or co-worker, it’s important to take responsibility for prioritizing and overcommunicating discussions, decisions, and action items agreed to. It’s amazing how few leaders build this habit with co-workers because keeping others informed and confirming what was discussed, could be one of the easiest things you can do to build a strong culture of expectations and accountability- and it goes both ways with employees to direct reports just as much with leaders and those that report to them. It avoids problems, conflict, and the “he said- she said” that inevitably comes up about something previously discussed. Documenting the details from important conversations or about what was discussed or decided, helps establish a culture of transparency. Fail to write things down and confirm you’re on the same page can later become a debate and if you’re an employee, you most likely will lose. The purpose of sending someone a follow-up to confirm ensures everyone is on the same page and it minimizes the chances of mixed messages being sent or heard. It creates a reference point for future follow-ups and an opportunity for self-correction.
Document for Clarity: Sending someone a follow-up and documenting what you heard serves as a powerful tool to confirm that you heard what they intended to say. By writing it down and sharing, you set yourself apart from everyone and give people a chance to circle back and close the loop in case there was anything misinterpreted, which there almost always is. Why? Because people hear what they want to hear, and most people suck at being clear about what they want to say.
Mixed Messages: One of the biggest disruptors at work is when someone says one thing and then someone or the same person then contradicts themselves, which often leads to conflict, bitterness, strained relationships, lack of trust, and the silent killer- SABOTAGE. As a leader, and someone who often shared my thoughts publicly, you’re doing others a huge favor by following up when you hear something said that sounds “off”. It’s important to address this when it happens and give people a chance to address any misunderstanding, even if it’s your boss. They’ll appreciate it. Leaving people in the dark about your thoughts and expectations is like setting someone up to fail, and it’s sad when you’re the one who’s off base because interpreted something the wrong way.
Working Remote: Working from home has become so common that face-to-face meetings disappear. This can be a big challenge, so to bridge this gap, documenting facts and confirming decisions in writing becomes even more vital. By utilizing digital tools like Trello or project management platforms like Slack, employees can document their progress, action items, and key discussions. Sharing this information with superiors ensures clarity and keeps everyone in sync, despite the lack of being in an office.
Power in the pen: Lead anything and documentation could be your best friend. It will save you from all kinds of pitfalls and problems. If you don’t think you have time to do this, you can ask your employee to follow up with you in writing. Tell them to send you what they heard so you can ensure you’re on the same page. To be clear, I’m just talking about throwing some bullets down in an email, confirming the decisions made and agreed to, so you can have a history of what was said.
Last, if you’re an employee and want to stand out, earn a raise, or be considered for future promotion, build this discipline. Send your direct report, in writing, your goals every 90 days. It demonstrates your commitment, but also keeps you in the spotlight for potential opportunities and promotions because you have no clue how much of an impact sending someone your goals has, especially since you’ll be the only one who probably does it. Follow up after 90 days with results and what you learned, and include your goals for the next 90 days. Let them know there’s no need to reply and that you just wanted to share. Trust me when I tell you that it can make a big difference in how you’re perceived when people talk about you behind your back. You’ll also benefit when it’s time to do your performance review, or you want to address a future pay raise.
Documentation is a high-performers best friend. Just ask the 3% of the country that writes down their goals. So, if you want to grow professionally and build a culture of accountability around you, start documenting and sharing details after your meetings. If you want to be normal and be like everyone else, don’t.