Communication that successfully engages and focuses the workforce means getting off your soapbox so you are accessible. This means interaction and conversation – not unapproachable dissertation.
Nineteenth century communication methods such as lecturing, impersonal written missives and top down delivered information result in workforces disengaging, productivity dropping, reduced performance and limited profitability. Engaging everyone at all levels of the business through conversational communication helps to prevent or resolve issues faster, creates a workplace environment that improves job satisfaction, while reducing stress and increasing productivity, profitability and overall performance.
“Keep things informal. Talking is the natural way to do business,” said T. Boone Pickens, American business magnate and financier. He believes great things come from casual conversation at lunch meetings consisting of a sandwich and a cup of soup. While you may not be able to have a conversation with your entire workforce over a light lunch, you can re-create that same casual informal method of communication that engages and focuses your workforce.
Soapbox communication acts like a one-way street with the message coming from the leadership only. Engaged communication flows in a circle, allowing the message to reach the workforce and allowing the workforce to engage in communication back to the leadership – it must be played back. What you think you’ve communicated isn’t necessarily what your workforce heard. Pickens had the perfect method for engaged circular communications when sitting around a table over lunch – everyone contributed and was involved in achieving success as a result of the conversation.
Make the decision to upgrade your communications: Simply becoming aware of the need to change isn’t enough. While it is important to evaluate your current communication methods, it is critical to create a plan that leads to a sustainable future by taking action. To be a world champion swimmer like Gold Medalist Michael Phelps, you need to eventually jump into the water.
Engaged communications begin with circular conversations not linear dissertations – preferably eyeball to eyeball. Small group conversations are much more effective than auditorium seating. If the auditorium is the only option, then use words that touch them audibly, visually and within. Key in on two or three members of the workforce looking them directly in the eye, calling them by name if possible, and have a one-on-one conversation with each of them about your message. Your message will be received by others as if you were speaking directly to each of them.
Create a circular flow to your new communication methods: This is a simple three-step process, whether communicating to a huge workforce or a three-person accounting firm. First, tell them what you are going to tell them. Second, tell them what you want them to know. Third, have them feedback what they heard so you know if they understood what you meant. The third step is critical. Unless they properly receive what you wanted them to know they will rapidly disengage.
The circular feedback is what leads to an engaged focused more productive workforce and a sustainably profitable business.
Reinforce your communications: Communications are no longer linear and in a single format. With telecommunications exploding in recent years, people, including your workforce, are constantly in contact. Not only can they be tweeting someone in India, texting a friend in California and talking to a family member in Michigan, they can be watching a movie on their phone. These communications models are your competition. To engage them you need to not only be in contact but connected.
Connect first through conversational communications that engage them. Then reinforce your message with a full complement of other communication formats – much as you would unveil a new product or service to the public. Use the written word on a secure internal social media business site, create visuals for bulletin boards that are communicated in the visual equivalent of a 30 second sound bite, send audio messages to your workforce, and have them create vision boards based on their interpretation of your message so they become part of the solution.
According to Lee Iacocca, former President and CEO of the Chrysler Corporation, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” Take action today to create a new communications roadmap that engages your workforce and creates sustainable profitability.
Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.