Anna's Blog

“Unless I Hear Differently”: Productive Team Communication and Taking Initiative

No comments

There is a single phrase that will empower your team to get things done without you – the dream of every boss.* It’s a phrase that prevents the stalling of projects and the slowing of momentum. This phrase will make your dreams start moving so fast within your team that you may freak out a little.

This phrase is, “Unless I hear differently.”

“Unless I hear differently,” or UIHD for short, was first identified by the guys over at Fizzle. They thought it so important that, for a time, they dedicated an entire website to the phrase with a video and email template for using it. UIHD is used in 2 main ways: within teams and between businesses and clients.

UIHD in Action

UIHD is directly contrary to the way business is usually done. Let’s say you are an employee and you hit a fork in the road as you’re going about your work. You could proceed using road A or road B. You were given no specific directions about which to take and both would be considered acceptable based on the instructions you were already given.

What do you do?

It’s at this point that, in the traditional way of doing things, you would send an email to your boss asking which road he or she would rather have you take: road A or road B.

Then you would work on something else while you waited or maybe take a coffee break.

The first project is now dead in the water.

Let’s look at this scenario using the new framework, UIHD.

You are an employee and you arrive at a fork in the road. You can choose road A or road B and, either way, you would be within the bounds of the instructions you already received for the project.

Which one do you choose?

You’re tempted to email your manager but then you remember what he or she told you: when confronted with a choice and any of the options would work within the bounds already discussed for the project, make a choice yourself based on your knowledge instead of asking for further direction. Then send your manager an email that says, “UIHD, I’m going to take road A.”

Then take road A without waiting for an answer.

So, that’s what you do. You choose a road based on your own expertise, knowledge, and experience. Now the project is NOT dead in the water. It’s not stuck at all. You’ve made a lot more progress than you would have if you were waiting for an email from your manager while you go on a coffee break or work on something else.

A Difficult Change to Implement

The thing is that using UIHD does not come easily for most employees. Many of your team members will be afraid to use this phrase because it means they have to make their own decisions about what to do next without getting direct instructions.

This is out of the ordinary for most people because we have taught our teams not to think critically but instead, to heed direct instructions from their superior about every little detail – the vast majority of which do not matter in the grand scheme of things.

At first, you will experience resistance from your team, especially if you inadvertently created a “permission slip” culture in your business before (asking for permission for every little thing). But you must keep encouraging your team to use this phrase if you want to experience greater levels of productivity and efficiency. The greatest and lesser-discussed benefit of UIHD is that it cultivates critical thinking and initiative-taking in teams.

UIHD Is Hard for Bosses, Too

My entire team is told they are incredibly smart, creative, and strategic. That’s why I hired them. I didn’t hire them to be extra arms and legs so I can carry out plans exactly the way I would do them. It’s not necessary for things to look exactly the way I expect them to look. It’s not necessary for the spreadsheet to be set up exactly the way I would have done it.

In fact, much of the time, what my team comes up with is even better than what I had in mind in the first place!

Many bosses, business owners, and managers might experience resistance from themselves when they first try to use UIHD because it will mean they are less “needed.” This, of course, is a good thing. When you aren’t constantly being interrupted by team members asking questions about things they are capable of working out themselves, you have so much more time to get things done.

But some managers either love to be needed or must feel in control of everything.

Therefore, UIHD is not only hard for employees, but it can also be hard for managers and business owners.

If you are a boss and experiencing resistance to this phrase because you like to have control over every detail, you are limiting your own success. You are limiting the effectiveness of your department, team, or business when you must have a say in every decision being made.

Let Go of the Reins

There is always more than one way to do things. Hire those whom you know will have great original ideas and let them work in their zone of genius. It benefits them, it benefits your clients, and it benefits your business or department.

Start with the smallest things. When you experience that tinge of discomfort by deferring a decision to someone else, just breathe through it and let it happen. You are breaking through barriers to higher levels of productivity and effectiveness. Keep practicing and you’ll be able to build up to bigger and bigger decisions being made by your team without your input. Things will start to move faster than you ever thought possible.  


UIHD is a little secret of effective teams and businesses doing extraordinary things at an amazing pace. Incorporate it into your team and watch the magic happen.


*Well, not every boss. Keep reading to see what I mean.


Looking for more entrepreneurial help? Check out my free resources for business owners.

Anna“Unless I Hear Differently”: Productive Team Communication and Taking Initiative

Related Posts