Communicating with Employees - 11 October 2011
By the time you finish reading this newsletter, you would have had approximately 107 thoughts enter your mind. Some of them might be totally unrelated, such as "I feel thirsty," while others might be more significant, such as "this is really lame." Either way, a torrent of thoughts will enter your mind. We know this because research conducted by the American government found the human brain produces between 12,000 and 50,000 thoughts a day.
When product manufacturers design eye-catching packaging, or when advertisers create memorable jingles, or when local councils put up flashy road signs, they do it because they want to trigger a thought in the public's mind that stands out from the other 50,000.
Likewise, when you're trying to communicate with people in your team, you need to know that you're also battling for prominence against those thousands of thoughts. A lot of those thoughts are nonsense. Most of them are negative. And heaps of them are about topics far more meaningful to people, such as their love life, shopping, kids, house, pets, friends, health, or whatever.
So, how do you break through? How do you communicate something so that it's noticed and remembered? Well, definitely not via email. Research released last year showed that corporate employees send and receive an average of 110 emails a day. That's an avalanche of messages, just like all those thoughts.
And if your primary method of communication is email (which is the case for 71 per cent of managers), your message is getting lost among hundreds of emails a week and thousands of emails a month. The irony, of course, is that this newsletter is sent via email. That's because it's the perfect medium for passing on information and facts, but it's much less effective at conveying emotion because the words and tone of an email can be easily misconstrued.
The solution is the traditional form of communication - face to face - which is more influential, more engaging, and better at building relationships. Generally, the most effective face-to-face communication has two parts: what you transmit and what you get back.
What you transmit is what you say. First, it's the decision you make about the message you want to send. Then, it's consciously choosing the right words, inflection, and body language to suit your intended message. And, finally, it's about saying it.
What you get back is the feedback - and it's the most neglected element of communication. Once you say something, analyse its success by answering one question: was the message received in the way it was intended? You do this by listening to the employee's verbal response and by looking for a match in non-verbal cues, such as posture and eye contact.
If there's a mismatch between what an employee says and how an employee looks, you know something's not right. Transmit your message again, only this time differently.
Communication hasn't occurred until this exchange of understanding has been accomplished. Now there's a thought.
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