Communicating to Build Engagement and Community

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Communication is the life‑blood of any relationship. Given this fact, is it any wonder that in companies in times of turmoil, there is a strain on relationships and the quality of communication between employees and management deteriorates? For an organization to be high‑performing and stable, vital information must move up and down levels of the organization freely, candidly, and honestly. There is no more important time for free, supportive, and honest communication than during the stressful time we are experiencing today.

Employees have to be trusted with information, even sensitive information and need to be included in the decision‑making process. Well‑informed employees are not only productive employees, but are also engaged, committed, and stay with the organization.

Over the years numerous studies have shown employees place a high value on being kept informed about their job, their performance, and how the company is doing. An organization’s inability to engage and retain top employees can be in large part traced directly to the lack of positive, open communication that provides them with the information they need. This deficiency is not always intentional. You may not even be aware people feel in the dark. They do not send bulletins or carry signs that they are dissatisfied with and are considering leaving. It is up to you to perceive subtle hints, identify problems, and, more importantly, create an atmosphere of open and candid communication. This will promote the solution of problems before they reach the critical level to cause an employee to consider leaving.

Some leaders are so caught up in the daily problems that they don’t consider or value the insight of their employees. These actions and attitudes can leave employees feeling isolated and unaware, especially with those remote workers. Many managers and executives are not aware that the future of the organization rests not just on the commitment, but on communication from the entire organization.

Companies of 10, 25, or even 100 may have more difficulty communicating than larger businesses. Many times, in smaller organizations employees, are relatives or friends of top management and, as a result, there is resistance from others to share information because they fear offending someone. A company’s small size is not a guarantee that top management is in tune with employees and aware of what they know.

Success during a pandemic, and always, rests on candid and open communication because top management must know how employees and customers are feeling. Open and candid communication clears up misconceptions or inaccurate perceptions. It is very important to understand that both customer and employee perceptions, even those based on inaccurate information, determine their actions. It is not the reality that determines a person’s attitudes and actions, it is their perception of reality. Now probably more than ever, be sure the perception is accurate.

Some top managers feel they should avoid sensitive topics with employees because mentioning it would mean they have to address the topic and it could cause problems. A topic that is avoided and the information kept secret cause problems. In the absence of facts, assumptions will be made, or rumors fill the void. In almost all cases, the assumptions, rumors, or even speculation is more damaging than the facts.

To create open and candid communication with others, use the following communication tips:

Communication Tips

  • Address a topic as soon as you feel people might be worried and begin talking to others.
  • Be sure you realize and understand cultural differences and how they affect communication.
  • Don’t use jargon and phrases with vague meanings. Be clear in what you say.
  • Share the company’s bad times, as well as the good times, with employees.
  • Be open about the impact of the situation on the organization.  They can sense it.
  • Don’t “shoot the messenger” who brings bad news unless you don’t want any more messages.
  • Ask everyone frequently if they are getting the information they need and want.
  • Make sure when you communicate with others, that you listen as well as talk.
  • Listen to what is being said and, even more importantly, what is not being said.
  • Use skill and become skilled in all appropriate mediums of communication to bridge gap caused by the social distancing.
  • Post or send charts and notes to keep people informed (handwritten notes are especially good).
  • Write letters of praise to people about specific contributions.
  • Now, more than ever, acknowledge special occasions such as birthdays or a child’s graduation.
  • Reach out and talk with people you wouldn’t normally interact with.  You will learn from them.  They will get to know you and be willing to approach and communicate with you.
  • Spend more time communicating with the important people; not just at work, but those who are important to you personally during these uncertain and stressful times.
  • Ask yourself each day, “Have I taken the time to listen and understand others’ needs or concerns?”

If you want employees and others in your life to be engaged, you must stay “in touch” and communicate with them candidly and frequently. It sounds easy to do but, unfortunately, it does not occur often enough. Make communicating with those who are important to you a top priority. The time spent communicating with employees will improve both your personal and professional life.

Increased engagement and motivation are even more critical in today’s pandemic business and personal environment. 

Communicating to Build Engagement and Community

Communication is the life‑blood of any relationship. Given this fact, is it any wonder that in companies in times of turmoil, there is a strain on relationships and the quality of communication between employees and management deteriorates? For an organization to be...

Leading Others Through Difficult Times

Leading Others Through Difficult Times

  It has been said that in times of stability management is needed, and in times of difficulties and chaos leadership is essential. Today we are experiencing a time of time of difficulty and chaos few have seen before. Now more than ever, there is a need for...

Leading Others Through Difficult Times

Leading Others Through Difficult Times

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It has been said that in times of stability management is needed, and in times of difficulties and chaos leadership is essential. Today we are experiencing a time of time of difficulty and chaos few have seen before.

Now more than ever, there is a need for positive, compassionate, purposeful leadership. We must be sensitive and supportive of those we lead. As we move to re-engage or re-energize employees in our businesses and learn how to obtain results in an environment amid a pandemic, we may have to dust off and use the skills we may have allowed to get rusty when times were easier. Also, we may have to develop new skills that stretch us as employees, managers, leaders and individuals.

Due to the long period of prosperity and ease of communicating, there may be skills and approaches, which we have not had, that we must consider. If you would like to improve your ability to get results now in these turbulent times and in the future no matter the conditions, building or improving your leadership skills has never been more important.

There is a great deal of debate over leadership skills. Some say leadership is really not a skill, but really the innate qualities of the individual that make him or her a leader. The problem with this premise is if I accept that I can not learn what is needed to be a leader and limited to my God-given talents. Others say that leadership is identifiable and specific skills that can be learned. The truth, however, lies somewhere in the middle. It is not a finite set of skills, such as management skills, but it is a consistent set of traits and skills that enable you to behave in a certain way.

While some people may be blessed with traits that naturally make them leaders, no matter how much we are blessed with, we can work and improve our skills and make our leadership more effective. While some may have not been blessed with the natural traits that people regard as leadership traits, they can learn the skills, approaches and techniques that people respond well to in leadership situations.

The challenge before us today is to move forward both personally and professionally with purpose and compassion. We must become productive without losing our sense of compassion. To do this I suggest the following actions to lead positively.

ACKNOWLEDGE THE EMOTIONS

The fear and uncertainty that people are feeling today will not go away quickly. Allow employees to state their feelings. The workplace is not one where people usually feel comfortable dealing with emotions. However, these emotions are still present. While few of us are trained as a counselor, you must be sensitive to the range of emotions that people are experiencing and be sure to respond if needed.

REFER TO EMPLOYEE ASSSISTANCE

If your company has an Employee Assistance Program, refer the person who is having difficulty. If your company does not, there are programs available through local government, social service agencies, and church organizations that are very beneficial.

REFOCUS ACTIVITY

It is easy to become distracted about the current news reports or conjecture about what will happen in the future. This energy, if focused away from the job and productivity, can be draining and lead problems. Therefore, it is best to focus on small projects or with larger, on-going projects, break them down into smaller pieces, and set deadlines for employees to work toward. By narrowing the focus and speeding up the movement from one task or job to another, we can stay on track and have a sense of accomplishment. By focusing on accomplishing specific tasks or certain productive during the day or even shorter periods of time, they can experience a sense of accomplishment.

REWARD SUCCESS

Any time a person’s confidence is shaken, he or she needs positive reinforcement. You as a leader have the unique opportunity and obligation to provide positive reinforcement. In addition to being cordial and staying in tune with employees, it is important to take every opportunity to reward positive actions and successes. Don’t wait until everything is done, reward the steps along the way.

If you manage younger workers, at-risk workers they could more affect. It may be the first time they have experienced such difficult times or felt this level of vulnerability. Even in good times, we have a tremendous responsibility to lead with purpose and compassion. Today your responsibility is even greater.

Take the time to evaluate how you lead others. Make a commitment to not only become a more skilled leader, but a more compassionate and purposeful one.

three people laptop

Communicating to Build Engagement and Community

Communication is the life‑blood of any relationship. Given this fact, is it any wonder that in companies in times of turmoil, there is a strain on relationships and the quality of communication between employees and management deteriorates? For an organization to be...

Leading Others Through Difficult Times

Leading Others Through Difficult Times

  It has been said that in times of stability management is needed, and in times of difficulties and chaos leadership is essential. Today we are experiencing a time of time of difficulty and chaos few have seen before. Now more than ever, there is a need for...