If you want your people to trust your communication:
1. Make sure the information is accurate and timely. If the company newsletter simply summarizes what’s already being talked about in the cafeteria, around the water cooler, or on countless internal email chains, then it is certainly not building trust in the company or it’s ability to communicate with its people. In fact, it’s probably hurting trust. You’re too late and as a result probably already behind the information curve. Your people will go elsewhere if they really want to know what’s up.
2. Make sure it is clear and relevant. If you send me the 500-word email that has 3 pdf attachments and bury what you want or expect me to do with the information somewhere in the middle, I’m either going to miss something important or realize you don’t know, or care, what is important to me because you sent me something seemingly useless. Either way, you are diminishing the value and impact of all of your future communications by sending confusing, overwhelming, and irrelevant ones today.
3. Find the right frequency, dose, and delivery. Different people work in different ways. Different jobs require the use of different communication channels. Understanding the right amount of communication and the right medium is critical to demonstrating an understanding of the recipient and his role in the company. For instance, an email to an administrator gets served differently than an email to a front-line employee who is on his feet all day. So, 50 emails in a day may not be a big deal for the former and completely overwhelming and unworkable for the latter.
If you want to communicate trust:
1. Listen, and prove you are listening. If your people don’t think you are listening, then it may not matter even if you are. Yes, first you have to listen, but you also have to demonstrate to your people that they have been heard. This does not always mean that you do their bidding, but you acknowledge their insights and explain, if necessary, why you chose to do something different. People are far more distrustful if they think they aren’t being listened to than if they realize there was just a difference of opinion.
2. Credit ideas and insights intentionally and frequently. Anywhere possible, good leaders attribute their actions to the insights and guidance of others. Show and tell your people how they are influencing and leading the organization. A good leader knows it is more important to have his people securely behind him than his ego securely in front of him.
3. Seek input on strategic, operational, perceptual, and tactical issues. People distrust when they only get to provide input on marginal or relatively unimportant things. They also don’t love it when they only get asked for input when some outside consultant is helping facilitate a big strategic plan or vision session. Finding ways for clear and consistent feedback channels on a range of topics will not only build trust but also ensure you have all of the insights you need to make good decisions.
And, will we know it when we see it?
We throw terms like “employee engagement” into the middle of a conversation and watch all the heads start nodding “yeah, we need that!” But, we rarely take the time to actually define what it means specifically for us.
Out of curiosity, I asked some colleagues from a variety of fields what “characteristics or behaviors” define an engaged employee for them. The response was kind of overwhelming, and many noted the question was “timely” for their work.
The respondents included leaders from technology, law, financial services, real estate, sales, a barbershop chain, consumer product marketing, project management consulting, government, K12 education, higher education, fundraising, nonprofit and a few more.
Here are their responses (loosely organized for easier consumption):
I have been struggling a bit lately. I haven’t felt like myself. Or, rather, I haven’t felt my self.
As far as I can tell, I am still doing the things I should be doing. Parenting, being a husband, working (hopefully close to that order), being a brother and a son, and so forth. In other words, all of the places I connect with the world, I believe, are still connecting.
But, I have found myself on a number of occasions saying “I need a vacation,” and candidly, that’s not really like me. I have also found myself feeling like I am in “a grind,” which is also not really like me.
Last week, I watched my daughter walk down the beach, prancing and twirling her “lovey,” occasionally stopping to scratch the surface and feel the gritty coolness of the sand. Exploring, absorbing, wondering.
I watched her consume the energy of the conversation at Thanksgiving dinner and speak up to offer her own, even if it made no sense to anyone else. Giving, receiving, engaging.
I saw her connect with her older cousins, grandparents, aunt and uncle. Playing, learning, loving.
Her self was present, and it enlightened mine as I struggled to be so. She was on her beach (not just “the beach”) wherever she was. And, she walked it, ran it, danced it, sang it, crawled it, and climbed it with all that she has. She was living it.
I am still learning to do so (and it is my parental imperative to help her never forget).
So, here I am, reaching for the sand again, writing it, crawling, trying just to walk my beach again.
As I take moments to reflect and cultivate my self in words, I will start to feel the breeze again. As I pause and stop the struggle and become one with life as it is in this moment, my toes will start to dig in and thread the lightness of the sand until rooted in its abundance. And, as my self and soul again find their relationship to the world, the water will roll upon me, move the ground beneath me, and expose me once again.
This is life. And, I need to remind myself to live it.