Close the loop

One simple mistake leaders make when communicating and collaborating is forgetting to close the loop after a decision is made.

3 min read


Illustration of close the loop concept for leaders

SmartBrief illustration

Even the best managers sometimes fail in one aspect of their communications.

But first, let’s talk about what they do well.

  1. They communicate purpose, letting people know what the organization believes and how their contributions matter.
  2. They make vision and mission tangible. Their management behaviors reinforce what the organization is trying to achieve.
  3. They listen to their people. They pay attention and listen with intention.

All these steps are positive.

What managers forget to do

What do good managers — all of them well-intended — forget to do? Close the loop!

Closing the loop means letting people know when and why vital decisions have been made.

It’s so very obvious, and so apparent, that it’s not always communicated.

The backstory

For example, good managers solicit input from others when discussing important issues. Good managers encourage a healthy debate. Wisely, they often speak last so as not to influence the discussion. (This practice avoids “going along with the boss” syndrome.)

At the same time, the boss may solicit advice on a course of action from individuals one at a time. This is all well and good.

So here’s what happens. The decision is made, and people who have contributed to that decision are not informed.

This habit, or failure to close the loop, makes people feel left out and in the cold.

What managers should do

Managers who solicit ideas are under no obligation to act upon those ideas.

However, what they are obligated to do is thank others for their suggestions. Then, let them know who made the decision and why it was made.

We call this “closing the loop.”

To close the loop does three essential things:

  1. It communicates the decision and reason for it
  2. It affirms the value of the person who made the suggestion
  3. It lets them know their input is valued and will be sought again

Closing the loop makes employees feel included, valued and crucial to the team.

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator, executive coach and the author of many books, including “GRACE: A Leader’s Guide to a Better Us,” “MOXIE,” “Lead With Purpose,” “Lead Your Boss” and “The Leader’s Pocket Guide.” In 2018, Trust Across America awarded Baldoni its Lifetime Achievement award for Trust. In 2019, Global Gurus ranked him No. 9 on its list of global leadership experts. Check out Baldoni’s leadership resource website

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