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Let’s say you’re the CEO of an agency and you happen to meet one of your junior agents in the elevator.  You take that opportunity to tell her about a change you want to make to a pitch the company is making to an important client.  Since she’s the person drafting the proposal for the team, she’s the right person to get the information.

You get off the elevator feeling as though you’ve delivered the message and move on to the 623 other items on your to-do list.  The junior agent receives the information and moves forward making changes based on the conversation you had in the elevator.

Three days later in a team meeting about the initiative, it comes out that you requested a change in the pitch and only one person on the team knew about it; the junior agent in the elevator who is not even the team leader.

What’s the problem?

There are 6 people on the team.  Two people on the team happened to run into the client at lunch and hinted at a pitch that has now been significantly changed.  A third person on the team has been putting together supporting graphics and materials for the original pitch.  And the entire team is now left feeling they are out of the loop and their efforts have been wasted.

The team leader feels embarrassed and angry.  The junior agent is horrified – she assumed everyone knew about the change since she is the junior member of the team.  She wonders why the CEO would only share information with her?

Wasted time and energy.  Hurt feelings and frustration.  Disconnection between team members.  These are all results of communication loops that have not be closed, and the solutions are simple.

Why people leave loops open:

  1. “I’m sure everyone else has been told already.”  They assume someone else has already closed the loop (an example is the junior agent above).
  2. “Information is power.”  These are information squirrels.  Storing information away like nuts just in case they need something extra next winter.
  3. “It will take too much time.”  This is the can’t see the forest for the trees scenario.  The time and energy it takes to close these loops is gained back 10-fold in productivity and team engagement.
  4. “Why do I have to do it?”  We all know this person.

Coach Me Quick tips for Closing Communication Loops:

  1. If you are sharing new information, either tell everyone who might be affected OR, assign someone else to dispense the information to the team.  Obviously, the CEO at the agency should not have to run around sharing the same information over and over again.  But, she could tell the junior agent “by the way, you’re the only person I’ve told so please let all of the team members know and anyone else you think might be affected.”
  2. If you are the junior agent in this scenario and you receive information, share it just in case.  You might go to the team leader and say “Hey, by the way, did you know that so and so has changed her mind about the pitch?  She just told me in the elevator.  Do you want me to tell anyone else”?
  3. If you are on the sidelines and you see or hear that there’s new information and you think a couple of people might not be in the loop, take responsibility for making sure that loop is closed.  Ask the person dispensing the information, if there is anyone else who needs to know.

Simple 101 Communication right?  Yes, but most companies have some form of open loop culture.  So be a loop closer and help yourself and your colleagues all at the same time.

Closing loops in L.A.,


Photo by mrnilspeters