Talking about your accomplishments to others – and not coming off sounding like a jerk – means following the three basic rules of effective communication. Follow these rules, whether you are in a one-on-one conversation at a cocktail party or giving a speech to a room full of constituents, and you will chalk up another important accomplishment: acquiring the skills to meaningfully connect with others.
Superior leaders lead through effective communication. The “secret sauce” is engaging hearts and minds to inspire action.
Did you know that many of the so-called “rational” decisions we make – and the way we behave – are governed by our emotions, and that our emotions have projective power over our thoughts? Emotions act as filters to form our desires, furnish our capacities, and to a large extent, rule our immediate thoughts. As we encounter fresh situations, become faced with novel problems or grapple with new ideas, our emotional response to each of these sets in motion the initial allocation of our mental resources. In essence, our first “read” of a new situation is always centered in our emotions, feelings and attitudes. As such, our emotions are laying the groundwork for the thinking that is to come.
Creating a powerful connection and compelling your stakeholders to take action requires engaging both the head and the heart – the mind and emotions. And for employees, engaging heads and hearts delivers higher levels of business impact faster. Here are four tips for more effective employee engagement:
1. Tell your story. Explain your organization’s vision and strategy to inspire and motivate. How? Simplify the strategy or vision in a way that resonates with employees (is personal and meaningful).
2. Set expectations. Employees want and need to know, clearly and specifically, what is expected of them. This includes both job tasks and organizational culture behaviors.
3. Actively listen. Everyone wants to be heard. Show your leaders, peers and employees that what they have to say is important by really listening. Put down your phone, turn to face whoever is speaking, avoid distractions and summarize what is said to you. Remember to take action after the conversation is over, if necessary. Actively listening shows respect and builds trust.
4. Communicate effectively. Provide the tools and coaching to help leaders and managers effectively communicate, fostering more productive and engaging relationships within their teams.
People notice visible signs before you “officially” tell them anything. These signs constitute anything out of the ordinary, everyday experience, including:
- Frequent closed-door meetings in an environment where doors are almost always open
- Unannounced visits by executives who spend the day in meetings with onsite leaders
- Unannounced visits by guests who appear to be closely examining people, processes and activities
- Posters or advertisements for anything that hasn’t been announced to the workforce
- Changes to the perks — free breakfast or lunch that’s no longer free, or when the kitchen isn’t stocked for a while
- Questions that go unanswered or projects that are postponed without explanation
As humans, we naturally look for pattern changes. When something changes and we’re not sure why, we make up our own reason. Here’s an actual example:
There was a For Sale sign on a fence facing the highway of near a manufacturing plant.
Employees driving to work passed the sign, then exited the highway, parked their cars and walked into the building entrance.
That’s when they saw the Now Hiring sign.
What do you suppose they were they thinking?
The reality was that the company had some land it wasn’t using adjacent to the manufacturing plant. So it decided to sell the land. At the same time, it happened to be hiring to expand its workforce.
Rather than communicate these two issues to the workforce so they could feel good about what was happening, they put up the signs and didn’t anticipate the resulting confusion.
What visible signs could your team be misinterpreting right now?
This is especially important when your team, function, business unit or organization is going through any kind of change. As you think through your change management plan, think about what visible signs your employees will see throughout the process. Are you timing your communication to align with visible signs? When leaders and managers tell employees what’s happening before they start to see the signs, they build trust, credibility and confidence.
For more information about employee engagement and change programs, or communication training, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.