I’m sure you’ve been caught up in what seems to be an endless email string. It started off between two people and suddenly there is a host of folks chiming in. Or perhaps one of your team members forwards one to you and says something to the effect of, “see what’s going on?!”
If an issue, complaint, misunderstanding is heading down the email string path, stop it. Pick up the phone. Set up a Skype or Zoom meeting. Walk to their desk. Take them out for coffee or lunch. But stop the email string.
Communicate directly and clearly. The written word is powerful, but it all comes with inherent misunderstandings. Some read an email and pick up a certain “tone” in the words. Others read the same email and don’t. Others see an offensive approach while others don’t.
Jon Acuff in his book, Soundtracks, speaks of direct communication in a couple of ways that I have found to be helpful.
“Curiosity beats criticism.” “My predictions are positive.”
I have had team members and colleagues forward an email string. “See what they said to me?!” Curiosity can say, “Why are they communicating this way? What is the root cause of this issue? Have you talked with this person directly about this?” Encourage your team (and yourself) to lead with curiosity and not criticism. Seek to understand.
This then leads to Acuff’s other point. An email string can be wrought with assumptions. Approaching issues from the positive can begin to break down walls, cease accusations, and come to a common goal – clear communication that leads to results.
I challenge you (and me) to encourage direct communication. Far too much time and money is wasted on incendiary emails that contaminates the workplace. We’re better than that.
This morning, I started reading a new book, Soundtracks by Jon Acuff. I have been studying how the brain works and how we act/react according to how we think. This book will be providing more insights into that area.
One quote caught my eye today.
“I imagine that everyone I work with is a business partner that I’m trying to help grow. I have 350 partners.”
Every day whether in person or working remotely, we interact with coworkers. Most of the time, these interactions go smoothly. Other times…not so much.
Acuff is pointing out in his book that our brains work off of existing “recordings”, thoughts that we believe (whether they are true or not) and then we act on them. Soundtracks is about replacing old “recordings” with new ones. Doing this brings meaning back to our encounters. It inspires us to move forward looking at life with a fresh perspective.
So today, as you log on in your home office or as you enter your office building (maybe for the first time in a year!), imagine that everyone you work with is a business partner that you are trying to help grow. If you get asked the same question multiple times a day, there is an opportunity to help your business partners grow. If you get caught up in an email string that takes a harsh turn, don’t respond with another email. Pick up the phone. Send out a Skype/Zoom invite. Walk to their desk if you are both onsite. And talk. Listen. Ask questions. Find ways to help them (and you) grow.
Break out of old patterns. Change the “recordings” of old soundtracks and replace them with better ones. You can do this. You can rewire your thinking. It is possible.
Kim Harrison writes: “Appreciation is a fundamental human need. Employees respond to appreciation expressed through recognition of their good work because it confirms their work is valued by others. When employees and their work are valued, their satisfaction and productivity rises, and they are motivated to maintain or improve their good work. Gallup studies show employee recognition is the key factor influencing employee engagement, and therefore organizational performance.”
When was the last time you took the time to write a note or email of appreciation to a team member of yours? Or even shared this with them face-to-face (or via Skype/Zoom)?
For some leaders, this is difficult. Hopefully, the old-school thought patterns are fading away (i.e. “You get a paycheck – there’s your appreciation from me!”). Maybe some leaders are afraid that if they give this affirmation to an employee, that employee will no longer work hard to be successful for the company (this was actually said to me years ago). And then, some leaders have never had this modeled in their own lives.
But as leaders, it is critically important that we exercise this appreciation muscle with our team members. Here is what I have found to be impactful.
Make it specific. Appreciate them and tell them why. What brought this on from you (especially if this is new for you)? Tell them what they did that caused this appreciation.
Make it personal. Recognize the individual’s work. Don’t dilute it by being vague. If you would like more of what you are seeing in them, fan the specific flame in your appreciation. You will see that they will will be inspired to do more, be more (see above quote).
Make it timely. Catch someone doing the right thing and let them know soon. It does not take long to write a specific, personal appreciation note/email. They will connect the dot from what they did that is bringing on this appreciation and your encouragement. Weeks or months later will not work. Appreciate now or very soon.
Have you found yourself in a situation where you needed to get below the conversational surface with a team member but you end up floundering? How about a difficult conversation with your boss? Or a talk you’ve been dreading with a challenging team member?
I have found this to be more of an ongoing resource than simply another book. I review it often. I use it often. It has helped me in many difficult conversations. It frames a positive environment for me and the other person to have a fruitful discussion. This resource helps move us forward.
John Maxwell is a master at giving us the right words to say at the right time. If you often feel stuck in coaching sessions, this book will free you. It will help you add value to the other person and create a more professional, positive working environment.