Monday, November 17, 2014

Talk to me and I'll follow you

Eric Friedman makes a number of good points about employee communications in this blog:

10 Steps to Keeping Employees Engaged and Motivated

-- but he skims past an important step: listening to employees, face-to-face.

His communications advice: "Communicate well and often. Training sessions, memos, newsletters, FAQs, and regular meetings can all be used to present your vision to your employees. Make sure to ask questions, and if they are confused, redesign the way the information reaches them."

"Trim for ansatte hos NVE" by
Henrik Svedahl/Norges vassdrags- og
 energidirektorat -
nve/4174242876/. Licensed under
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This advice feels at once both intelligent and dated, because Eric's cited source is about 10 years old. Memos and newsletters -- increasingly lost in today's daily crush of emails, and rarely committed to print -- are less relevant.  Many employees either don't have access to desktop or laptop connectivity, or are restricted from using mobile phones on the worksite.

So what's the solution?

Try listening instead of memo'ing.

One of my best supervisors in my corporate career, hours after assuming the job, scheduled short, face-to-face meetings with each team member. He asked what I did, where we were successful and where our efforts came up short, where I wanted to grow, and then asked what I needed to be more successful. He also spoke of taking ownership of decisions, and empowered me to make decisions -- but added, "I own every decision you make."

The relationship started off with a shared path forward, and I felt empowered for months after that 45-minute conversation.

Whether you choose to call this "emotional intelligence" or management by walking around, it's a very effective communications strategy. Until my last day with the organization, I knew that supervisor's objectives and knew how to meet and exceed our shared goals.

Yes, face-to-face dialogue is time-consuming. But it builds relationships that no newsletter, memo, or group meeting can achieve. It engages employees and gives them a sense of empowerment. And if you're building an internal communications strategy for managers, it's wise to equip those supervisors -- who may never have led others before -- on how to grow their listening skills.