4. Put your message in context Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2009

Mitchell Feiger recognizes that maintaining frequent and timely communication with your team can be tricky — sometimes your honest message has an unintended negative consequence. But good, bad or indifferent, your people need to have the ability to properly place what you’re telling them.

That’s why Feiger, president and CEO of MB Financial Inc., the holding company with $8.6 billion that’s parent to MB Financial Bank N.A., makes sure to put his messages in context.

“Sometimes by being honest with the staff, you can raise their level of worry,” Feiger says. “I think what you want them to have is an appropriate, realistic amount of worry, not an unrealistic one. In the absence of communication, people would fear the worst or worse than the worst, and we want them to understand what reality is.”

Context means going beyond saying things are bad in a market and the company is hurting. It means explaining to staff members what MB Financial is doing to adapt and why those actions are being done.

Feiger also brings in the appropriate experts and asks them to deliver commentary on things like the market, the company’s competitors and where they are against the yearly plan.

Whatever your message is, make sure to mark the beginning and end dates appropriately. Don’t just tell employees one thing is important for a quarter and then never go back and celebrate your success or comment on your failures.

“The more they know, the better informed they are, the closer they feel to the company, the better they can understand when we make hard decisions why we’re making them,” Feiger says. “And I think frankly it gives people more confidence that the management team here at least has some idea that they know what they’re doing.”