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No Surprises, No Panic

In Durham, where I live, the public school district has been working hard to increase wages particularly for its non-teaching staff. Indeed, the district hired a consultant to advise how they could increase salaries, and the district increased nonclassified workers’ wages at the academic year’s start. 

Quickly the district's finance office realized the implemented plan would result in a huge budget shortfall. In an attempt to forestall the deficit, the district wrote to the nonclassified employees explaining the new salaries would bust the budget and starting next month salaries would be cut. 

You can imagine how that went over. (Employee walkouts, school cancellations, and an eventual reinstatement of the initial wage structure.)

Along those lines I copy Seth Godin’s complete blog published on Monday, the day of the solar eclipse:

Until just recently, a solar eclipse was not a tourist event. It was the cause of real panic.

Two reasons are worth considering:

  1. It was a surprise. They were not predicted.

  2. They were unexplained. No one had any idea what was going on. 

Eliminate the surprise and explain the circumstances and panic starts to fade. 

As leaders, we need to remember these implicit instructions from Godin.

  1. Eliminate (or reduce as much as possible) surprises. Give people plenty of warning about what is about the happen.

  2. Deeply and completely explain the rationale behind decisions, particularly controversial ones.

These simple steps will eliminate panic and enable you to guide your organization through challenges in a calmer and more rational way.


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