by Steve Adubato, PhD
I was recently talking with a colleague who manages a large number of direct reports and has several supervisors between him and those team members. Even though the supervisors are technically managers of these approximately 80 staff members, my colleague — we will call Jim — finds himself consumed by communicating and managing information, assignments and tasks with all of these people on a regular basis.
According to Jim, "It’s driving me crazy. I feel like if I don’t proactively communicate and reach out to find out where we are on a particular project, things are getting stuck."
When I asked Jim why the five managers he had in place weren’t playing a more active role in leading and managing the other team members, his frustration grew and he said, "I don’t know what it is. They go only so far on a particular project and then they leave me hanging. They don’t close the loop."
When I asked what he meant by "closing the loop," he said something that I am sure will resonate with countless managers and leaders reading this column. "All I ask is that they keep me updated on the status of a particular task," he said. "Even if it is not complete. Just tell me where we are. But instead, I find myself trying to track things down. All I want them to do is close the loop at the end of the day with an email or a phone call. But most just don’t do it."
As I thought about my conversation with Jim and his description of the need for us to "close the loop," it hit me how pervasive this problem is. Too many professionals at every level wait for their managers, clients and others to track them down and ask the question: "Where are you with XYZ project?"
Great communicators understand the need to be proactive. They understand that most people on the other end are expecting you to reach out and let them know where things stand without that person having to follow up with you.
The simple concept of "closing the loop" is so significant, not just in terms of client service, but also for professionals who report to their managers and leaders of organizations. Ask yourself this question: If you were the head of a department or division in a company with many people reporting to you dealing with numerous projects, would you rather chase down information about where things stand or have your team members proactively communicate about the status of those projects and the projected completion of them? The answer is obvious.
But in spite of this, too many people are too passive in their communication and wait to be asked, prodded, begged and sometimes pushed very hard by their boss to do what is essentially their job. Simply put, keep your boss in the know. Close the loop. Doing this will reduce your boss’ anxiety level, will make you look good and, further, will allow the leader of your team to focus more on the bigger picture rather than micromanaging the information flow.
Even if the project or assignment you are working on is not completed, or you are facing real obstacles or challenges, close the loop by sending an email or communicate via phone or in person to those who need to know about the situation. That way, you can deal with the situation together.
However, by not communicating, it only creates confusion and reduces productivity on your team.
So start closing the loop. Your boss will appreciate it.