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CultureMar 08, 2017

Communication: In the Absence of Information, What Do People Do?

Lauren King and Rob Borrego

We have a mantra in our firm:

“In the absence of information, people make it up.”

We do this. When lacking access to information we speculate, assume, guess, and sometimes even make up what we believe are facts, even if they aren’t.

We don’t want our team members to lack access to facts.

Our firm-wide approach to communicating is to do so openly, honestly, and completely. This is central to our firm’s culture. As a leadership team, we want our employees’ experience to mirror the expectations outlined during the recruiting and hiring process.

A representative example of this approach is the Credera Fireside Chat.

The Fireside Chat is a monthly meeting where Credera team members gather to discuss important company information. When I first joined the company in 2004, Fireside Chats were hosted weekly. The Credera family would get together for lunch around a table and discuss important issues. Today, 13 years later, our tradition of open communication remains strong. Instead of gathering around a table, the Credera team meets in large conference rooms with “roaring fires” (or at least videos of cozy fires projected onto screens).

The structure and format has changed as we have grown, but the purpose and outcome has remained the same. We are committed to complete, honest, and open communication.

Radical Candor

During Fireside Chats no question is off limits. We take time to introduce new employees, celebrate wins, and share business development, recruiting, and marketing updates. New employees are often surprised by the radical candor and transparency of our discussions. We believe it is important to openly share all the facts with our employees, because knowing the full picture—including the full financial picture (e.g., sales pipeline, profit and loss, utilization, etc.)—influences our focus and the way we work.

The most difficult time to share this data is when we fail to meet our financial goals. It can be tempting to avoid sharing difficult news, but over the years I have learned that transparency is the best answer, especially when it is difficult. This is also the reason we share about recent employee departures. We are a family and we want our family to know the truth—even if the news is disappointing.

While we don’t shy away from sharing difficult news, we never speak from a place of disparagement or discouragement. The transparency at Credera is paired with encouragement and vision. I am constantly reminding myself and the team that we get to work with some of the most brilliant, hard-working, and talented men and women I know. I make a point to tell our family I love them and how going through difficult times will make us better, faster, and stronger.

We enjoy inviting discussion into the Fireside Chats by regularly checking to see if there are any questions throughout the meeting. As I mentioned, no question is off limits. At the last Fireside Chat I was asked, “What keeps you up at night?” I shared a few examples of things I would try to do differently and better if I could go back in time. I was also asked specific financial questions relative to our firm performance, which were good to address.

A Valuable Investment

While the Fireside Chats are one of my favorite Credera traditions, they also require a significant investment in time, money, and planning.

Personally I make it a point to block off my calendar during Fireside Chat days. We usually meet at the end of the workday and, as the primary communicator at these meetings, I take this seriously and need to spend time thinking through what we need to communicate and how we can be most helpful to our teams.

Historically, our Denver and Houston offices called into our Fireside Chat meetings. We began to realize this was not the most effective method for these offices. There is something meaningful about in-person communication that cannot be replicated over the phone or computer. Recently, Credera President Justin Bell and I have been spending time with each office for a monthly in-person Fireside Chat. We love the time we get to spend with our Dallas, Denver, and Houston family. It’s important that our entire team is involved.

The work required to communicate openly, completely, and consistently with the Credera family is a great investment into our culture and something I deeply enjoy!

LIFE AT CREDERA

We’re “open-sourcing” the Credera culture in a series called Life at Credera. We are sharing an authentic perspective on what we are learning and where we are growing. We are talking about friendships and fungrowth, higher purpose, talent and character, leadership, and communication.

We hope this series is a helpful resource on the continuous pursuit of a great culture. And we hope the results are encouraging to our company, employees, clients, and friends.

Looking for more? Check out these great Life at Credera perspectives:

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