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Monday, July 26, 2010
Over the weekend I spent quality time with friends, one I hadn't seen in years. When it comes to reconnecting with people, my first thought is, "gee, what will they think of me now?" And so as we were getting re-aquainted, it was so fun to watch the looks of surprise and discover the number of times we thought alike about our experiences.
What I didn't anticipate in this meeting with my dear friend from the past (high school!) was her sharing what she always admired about me. Gosh, such an added bonus to learn those private viewpoints, now, a good 30 years later. It just stands to reason that when we're with friends, we want to know their thoughts, as well as the impact we are making.
We humans naturally take similar thought processes with us to other life circles. On the job, this "I wonder what they will think of me?" shows up in a slightly altered way. Basically, it affects the topics of communication we treasure from those around us.
There are 3 key topics of conversation employees value:
1. Employees value getting information about their job
2. They value getting information about their performance
3. They value getting information about how the company is doing
When our boss is clear about their expectations of us, this gives us a baseline to follow. Additionally, the more they share about the mission of the dept/company, about the values represented and strategies used to approach them, the further along we are in being oriented into the history and everyday production.
Speaking to these things is one thing. What really communicates is actions. My first boss when I was a high school teacher was a principal who carried smiles on his face, words of positive encouragment and letters of praise. He loved the teaching staff and proved it through his actions. He had a quick sense of humor vs. a quick sense of rage. He was at ease with the women as well as with the men, showing his progressive leadership style vs. the "good 'ole boy" manager. Ron was a quality leader - one who communicated his values through his actions.
Words, actions and then a variety of visual aids supplement what is important to us. On his office walls hung pictures of his family, motivational sayings and pictures of his staff. When we walked into his office, we felt at home. We only had to look at his walls and we saw what he thought of our performance. Yes, we all want to know not only what we SHOULD do, but how well we are doing. Ron was quick to inform us through specific conversations, through words of praise, through observation of special moments and through debriefing after challenging times. We got this information in multiples - and that makes a difference.
Not only did Ron care enough to let us know how we were doing, he cared enough to let us know how the school district was doing. This impacted our focus on future goals, on budgets for our school activities and accounts and it helped us understand the day-to-day priorities. Being kept in the loop contributed to his staff's trust of him - and it showed that he trusted us as well.
Ron didn't have the resources to give us monetary recognition in a sizeable way, yet it wasn't necessary. He gave us what was most important - trusted communication.
Since then I have learned that leaders who listen are leaders who when speaking, will have the full attention of their audience. Their willingness to be quiet, to really tune into those around them, to enter a space in order to observe vs. in order to be observed, is the sign of a quality individual. They develop curiousity. They attract notice and they make an impact. If there is anything listening is second to, it's positive communication.
Positive communication sets the tone for the environment. Letters of appreciation, phone calls of support and face to face recognition are proof there has been an investment in office relationships. These leaders would be willing to call new hires at home prior to their first day as a sign of welcome and anticipation. They would share letters of praise from clients/customers/community about direct reports. They would encourage open or anonymous questions and guarantee responses.
Thinking, actions AND words create the space for an environment full of recognition. Evaluate where you are with your communication. Most of us have someone we can recognize who is deeply interested in our perspective. Who is that for you?