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Team Communication that Isn’t Ignored
Anyone who has a kid will tell you that a lot of things you say goes “in one ear and out the other.” And anyone who has ever held a leadership position can tell you that managing people is often a lot like parenting. Raising your voice, repeating yourself, micromanaging, and getting angry doesn’t solve the problem — it makes it worse.
“Raise your words, not your voice. It’s rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” — Rumi
Pretty words, but they’re more true than you know. Thunder, like speech, may sound effective, but true effectiveness is measured by response, not volume. Successful communication involves both transmission and reception, and cultivating reception on the part of the hearer requires intelligent work. Business leaders, office staff, production managers, and crew leaders all have a lot of things to say that can’t be ignored if a company is to continue growing and making profit.
Does this always happen?
Let the congregation of contractors and business leaders all stand and raise their voices together — “No!”
The feeling that one is being ignored is a universal problem of leaders and supervisors. If you feel this frustration, you are not alone.
So, how should important messages be communicated to the rest of the team in a way that gets the point across and receives a prompt response?
Team Communication requires a few elements to be effective.
Words are tricky things. You need them to communicate, but if you use too many, they obscure the very thing they would clarify. Use them sparingly. A wise person says in 5 words what another says in 10. The key here is quality of selection and structure, not volume. Look at your texts/emails/messages…can you trim some words and sentences? Can you bullet-point most of it? Can you boil it down to 1-3 action items? Whether you're speaking face-to-face or sending a typed message, simplicity must be a priority.
Of course, supid-simple doesn’t mean stupid. You’ll lose credibility if you mumble, ramble, or choose your words poorly. Leaders and strong contributors should be and sound smart—but when sounding smart or being long-winded begins to over-shadow the goal of prompting a response, then you’re back to just stupid. Stupid-simple means that your listeners can’t help understanding what you mean, and more importantly, knowing what you want.
There must be a clear connection between what you want, and what they must do. They don’t have to like it. There just needs to be a clear path between what you want and what they need to do. Don’t over-explain. Don’t over sympathize. Just ‘here’s what we need’ and ‘here’s what you need to do.’
A side note on cultivating a sense of urgency: you don’t need to convince people of urgency in general messages. The baseline expectation is always that people do their jobs. If they don’t, they are held accountable in a side meeting. End of story. Micromanagement is bad parenting and fosters disengagement. Effective communication that drives action is only possible in a company culture in which individual responsibility and accountability is cultivated and upheld by all.
Smart Vehicles For Smart Content
So which is the best vehicle for effective team messaging: emails, in-app messaging, or texts? With a lot of great tools on the market, it kind-of depends on your goals. In the marketing world, emails get about a 20% open rate and about a 6% response rate; while texts have a near 98% open rate and a 45% response rate. Does this translate to internal messaging for teams? The lesson here is that most people tend to respond to texts over emails, even when they're being sold something.
Email may still be helpful these days as formal, long-form team communication and documentation, but its existence in a company is mostly useful only for external communications with customers or colleagues who don’t share internal messaging platforms. Frequent communication with your team is simply no longer optimal in email.
Texting (SMS) oniPhone or Android is immediate and universal, and it may seem like a no-brainer for teams to use, but there are a few drawbacks when using it for professional team messaging. For many, texting may be perceived as invading the personal space of your team members who would rather it be dedicated to family and friends. For those of those who are open to using texting for work, there is no documentation of conversations, there’s no organizing capabilities, and group-texting tends to annoy rather than unite.
Internal messaging platforms–especially those with @mention enablement–are serious contenders for the top team communication tool. If you’ve used tools like Google Docs or Slack for any amount of time, you know how essential an @mention capability is for limiting conversations to only the people who need to be in them. There is simply no reason any more for reply-all emails and texting echo-chambers that involve Kevin Bacon unnecessarily. Additionally, team-messaging platforms help team members archive and organize their conversations as well as protect their work-life balance.
Because some team members still prefer to receive SMS texts from work, many internal messaging platforms like Slack, Discord, and Estimate Rocket provide options for notifications to be sent out through SMS texts. This way users decide for themselves how they want to be notified, thus keeping their texting for personal use if they prefer.
Immediate, Frequent, and Consistent
Immediate communication means that the subject matter of the message is something that is an immediate concern of your team members. It is important now, even if it is not happening now. Your unspoken promise to your team should be that you don’t communicate things that don’t matter. If you’re saying it, it matters…now.
Frequent communication doesn’t mean you repeat yourself, but that your voice doesn’t disappear, that you are saying the things that matter to people at the time they matter, and that you’ll do it as often as you need to. This also means you’ll remind people of what they need to know, but reminding people and repeating yourself are two different things. Reminders are refreshers, but it is operating under the assumption that people heard the first time and have already responded appropriately by taking action or setting their own reminders or schedules. Reminders tell people that you as a leader haven’t forgotten, and that this is something that you take seriously. But it is never, ever repeating yourself. Repeating yourself tells people that what you say doesn’t matter.
Consistent communication uses the same trusted methods over and over again because they work. The message does change, but you must be consistent in how you deliver your message, who you deliver it to, how long it is, the clarity of expectations, immediacy, frequency, etc. This doesn’t mean it all sounds the same, but it does mean people have a consistent sense of how you communicate and what you expect. Your team should have an increasing anticipation of when and how often they will receive communication. This warms them up and keeps them responsive. Consistency of communication guarantees consistency in response.
Follow-up and Feedback
If you don’t follow-up with your team or offer feedback, you are in essence stating how unimportant your messages are. Regularly recognize effort and action, and regularly hold accountable any failure to act. This is not micromanagement or harassment, because, as mentioned already, micromanagement fosters disengagement. This is, however, a routine way of indicating that what you say matters. Any easy way of building up rhythmic follow-up and feedback is to publicly recognize team successes or lapses in team meetings. Schedule recognition monthly and yearly if you need to. Managers must also regularly schedule performance reviews for accountability and improvement plans. Do NOT wait for yearly performance reviews to address shortcomings. Yearly performance reviews should be mere recaps of already-enacted improvement plans, nothing more. If you don’t have time to coach your team members “up or out,” then it’s time to hire more managers or limit production. Not having a consistent schedule for follow-up and feedback is the perfect recipe for being blatantly disregarded.
It shouldn’t go without saying that any feedback needs to travel both ways. Leadership needs to work to create a culture in which 360 degree feedback is the norm, and this never happens accidentally. Management communication tends to drift one-way, so reversing the flow and letting your team know that their opinion matters closes the loop and further establishes the value of feedback as it flows in both directions. One-sided feedback isn’t about learning and growing, it is about controlling, and your team members can smell an unwillingness to listen and respond to their concerns from miles away.
These principles are your ‘Guide To Not Being Ignored,’ which will make team-life easier, work more rewarding, and your company more profitable. If it makes sense, it makes money!