Communication is more than a two-way street. However, should both parties in a relationship be responsible? Yes! Is this always true? No. Sometimes people (customers, employees, co-workers, bosses, us) forget their part and don’t communicate well. Does that mean we should give up and not try to communicate? Why wouldn’t a leader or a parent or you want to do all he or she could to build trust, inspire or help another person? That’s 100% responsibility and accountability. If the other persons do so, it’s a bonus. But don’t count on it.
Think about it, we teach this approach in our customer service training to take care of customers. The customer is right so use your skills to help in spite of the problem or complaint. We wouldn’t brush off customers or scream at them. Shouldn’t we also apply the same thought and skills in dealing with co-workers, others or our teams? The old model of communication that we have been taught in education is a barrier to communication today.
Former Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries said this: “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong.” Communication like this drives employees and customers away in droves! Because of this comment and others that alienated many people, eventually business declined significantly and Jeffries was forced to resign.
Performance issues, workplace conflicts, and employee disengagement often are the result of poor or offensive leadership communication like the above. Usually, it’s because the manager pontificates don’t listen and avoid involving the other person or the team. Often the ego or personal gain get in the way.
Too often we communicate mixed messages or don’t talk at all. The all-encompassing email is sent to ‘straighten out the troops’. How many times has this approach backfired? Or, we ask for input only because it is required after an employee survey. Nobody seems to have time to communicate, let alone really listen to what’s going on with their teams, other departments or the customer. Steven Covey’s quote is so appropriate for today. Now, in many organizations, communication is delegated to Apps for performance reviews, recognition, input, one-on-ones and conflict resolution. It seems we only meet face to face when a problem has escalated.
25 Behaviors that Lead to Better Communication
While the actions below may seem painfully obvious, employee disengagement and management derailment studies prove otherwise. Many of these can be applied to our personal lives as well. Each of these is more positively potent when done in face to face engagement.
- Say ‘hello’ to each person some time during the day, using their name.
- Check-in: “How are YOU doing?”
- Praise an employee’s progress.
- Listen to an employee’s concern.
- Encourage your team.
- Validate an employee’s idea.
- Facilitate an engaging team meeting with more dialogue than monologue.
- Be available for any questions.
- Clarify a concern about priorities.
- Share key information.
- Have your team’s back.
- Make time to discuss a problem.
- Plan with your team.
- Compliment an employee in front of a co-worker.
- Take the time to coach.
- Involve your team in ‘value-added’ training.
- Celebrate a victory together.
- Make a constructive decision on a request.
- Deal with poor performance humanely and honestly but quickly.
- Admit a mistake.
- Give your team the credit for a win.
- Express enthusiasm for your team and its mission.
- SMILE once in a while!
- Have some fun!
- Be more positive, not negative!
While there are many other actions to take, you get the idea. Great communication takes consistent diligence. Genuine communication like this creates respect and trust. It also generates positive influence and better relationships. You win employees’ hearts and minds as they become a high performing team. However, in too many places this seems to be rare nowadays.
So today, vitally communicate with your team. Take a Servant Leadership approach, not a self-serving perspective. Effective leadership is a high-contact sport. All of this is now more important, with the focus on technology and analytics. In the midst of the whirlwind of work, why not seamlessly focus more on people, not the task? (People are more important than the goal.) This isn’t one assignment. These kinds of actions are more than management– its leadership.