• James Walton

Communicate with Direction and Context

Human beings are wired to respond to status. Seemingly everyone knew where the cool kids table was in the middle school cafeteria. 

Now as grownups in the workplace, many of us pride ourselves on being accessible leaders with open door policies and low power differentials. We want our team to feel comfortable interacting with us, and we want them to feel as though we're part of the team. We're all at the cool kids table now.

This is noble, but an important truth should not be forgotten: when in a position of power/authority/status, communicate down the chain with both direction and context.

If you fail to provide context, your direct will provide it themselves, and it will rarely be the one you want.

For instance, imagine sending one of your directs this note: "come to my office tomorrow morning, we need to talk."

What emotions are they likely to feel for the next 18 hours? Without additional context, they're left to build a narrative of their own choosing.

A request like that will bring up anxiety, uncertainty and fear. So when they walk into your office at 8am the next morning and you say, "Glad you're here, I've got some ideas for the Henderson proposal I'd like to run by you," they'll feel foolish for feeling badly and unprepared to discuss what's on your mind. 

What's the solution? Take the small extra step of providing context for your direction or questions. 

Here's what it looks like in action:

Less Helpful: "come to my office ASAP"

More Helpful: "come to my office ASAP; re: new development on client project you need to be aware of"

Less Helpful: "what are you doing right now?"

More Helpful: "I've got some items to delegate that'll take ~30 minutes, what's your workload this afternoon?"

Communicating with both direction and context will limit anxiety among your directs, increase preparedness and cultivate a more effective team. 


At Trellis Group, we believe chaos is the enemy of the small business. It's our mission to partner with small business owners and their teams to develop the managerial practices and processes to crush chaos. Revenues go up, anxiety goes down, and work becomes a force multiplier for good in the lives of your people. Reach out to discover how the Trellis Group can help you crush chaos



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