Successful leaders know that effective communications are a competitive advantage. As you begin 2017, make a resolution to evaluate the health of your employee communications. Are business goals and actions aligned? Do employees understand priorities and do they have a way to participate and share ideas?
Everyone talks about the importance of communications, but it’s just lip service without an actionable plan. Here are four ways to commit to better communications in 2017.
1) Map out your communications calendar right now—Begin with a “Welcome to 2017” message. Schedule dates for the entire year now to ensure it remains a priority. Keep the content fresh with a mix of performance results, customer and employee stories, and encouragement. We all need more of that.
2) Articulate the vision— If a customer asks an employee what your business was about, what would they say? Everyone on your team should use the same headline. When people can connect their work to big goals, they are more engaged. Leaders who communicate the vision and values, then put those values into action, see performance climb.
3) Use stories to make an impact—Think back to the most recent story that struck a chord with you. Was it complicated or overstuffed with facts? Simple stories make an emotional connection with the audience and hold their attention. Use your own experiences to make a point. I recently heard the president of a large hospitality group say that he makes time for fitness daily because “We only get one set of parts and I want mine to last.” That’s memorable and tells me something interesting about him. Leaders who share a little of themselves in communications are viewed as credible and human.
4) Get visual—Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. If you rely on email as your primary form of communication, know that there is a better way. In 2016, there were 4.6 billion cell phone users in the world and most phones have video or photo capability. Your team members are viewing or creating visual media every day. Use photos and video as frequently as you use memos. Video is an excellent way to improve message retention, connect with remote workers, and engage senior leadership with teams. The best part is you don’t have to have a large budget or be an on-camera pro. If you’re sincere, it will be memorable.
That will get you started. Need some help in communications planning for 2017? Get in touch.
This time of year, a kind of holiday haze sets in. The breakroom counters are bursting with tins of holiday cookies and flavored popcorn. Employees are focusing on completing 2016 assignments (and scheduling holiday getaways).
December marks the fiscal year-end for many businesses. Help your employees successfully navigate through the many December deadlines with proactive communications that show you care about more than the bottom line. Here are five tried-and-true ways to do it.
1. Clarify year-end deadlines. Start your team meetings with a reminder or checklist of deadlines for invoice processing, Flexible Spending Accounts, finalize expense reports, and other year-end deliverables. This messaging should begin December 1 and continue through the month.
2. Communicate vacation benefits. Paid time off is treasured by employees. If your business has a “use it or lose it” vacation policy, remind team members so they can schedule time off before year-end. If your company allows vacation accrual, communicate the accrual limit. Ensure there are no surprises in January.
3. Come together through service. Studies show that volunteerism increases pride, commitment and employee engagement. Contact a local charity, food bank or civic association for ideas on how your team can get involved during the holidays.
4. Celebrate 2016 achievements. Create a top ten list of your team’s “Greatest Hits of 2016” or ask team members to talk about one thing that helped them be successful this year. Connect the dots to show how every role contributes to delivering performance and your company’s vision.
5. Say thank you. To make a connection that lasts, send a personal note of thanks. Low cost, big impact. Be sincere and make it personal by including a strength or a behavior the individual brings to the team.
Before you craft your next message, take a look at these and enjoy.
“When you are telling stories, have a point. It makes it much more interesting for the listener.” Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 1987
“Don’t use seven words when four will do.” Oceans Eleven, 2001
“Learning to listen, that takes a lot of discipline.” Forever Strong, 2008
“Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking.” Wizard of Oz, 1939
“Avoid using the word very because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he’s exhausted. He’s not very sad, he’s morose. Language was invented for one reason, to woo women. And in that endeavor, laziness will never do.” Dead Poet’s Society, 1997
“The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark. It’s written in ink.” The Social Network, 2010
“Whoever tells the best story, wins.” Amistad, 1997
“You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not to think.” Finding Forester, 2000
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962
Everybody has to sell a little. You’re selling them this idea of you, you know, you’re sort of saying trust me, I’m, um, credible.” Broadcast News, 1987
One day last week I parked in front of a white, mid-sized car. Not brand new, not a luxury brand, just a car you might not notice. Except I did. Because it had long, black eyelashes on the headlights.
As it turns out, you can buy car eyelashes for less than $30. It’s an inexpensive way to share a little flair. If you’re looking, you’ll notice the countless ways drivers personalize their rides, from snazzy rims to monogramed window stickers.
The takeaway here is not the growth in auto accessory sales, but the ever-increasing desire for self-expression. Your business can harness that powerful trend by creating communications channels that encourage collaboration and involvement.
To be relevant, internal communications has to invite and ignite employees to share their opinions and personality. Once internal communications was top-down: we’ll tell you what you need to know. As internal communications evolved, communication improved with employee surveys, town halls and feedback sessions. Think about this: How often does anyone actually ask a question at a town hall session?
Involvement communications is a fancy term for connecting with individuals, not groups. It’s about creating ways for your colleagues to participate. Here are three excellent ways to start:
· Social media—Invite employees to share what they love about your company as brand ambassadors. Create a hashtag and use it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Share the guidelines on how to use it and promote it internally. Then watch how they share what they love about your business. You’ll be amazed how quickly it’s adopted. Want some good examples? Go to #AdobeLife, #LifeatIHG or #ToBeAPartner.
· Online forums–Create an online forum on your company’s intranet and solicit ideas for building engagement and productivity or saving money. Enterprise networks like Yammer, tibbr, or Chatter create a channel to collaborate, share insights and new ideas.
· Involvement events—Create events that let them share their passions. Chili cook-offs, photo contests, or service days are simple, inexpensive ways to bring teams together to build community. Ask for selfies and share the day through communication channels.
Want more ideas on how to bring your internal communications to life? Let’s connect: firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently attended an event recognizing the University of Georgia’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2015. The guest speaker was Tonya Harris Cornileus, Vice President for Learning and Organizational Development at ESPN. She made a strong impression. Her speech centered on a book that influenced her life and her leadership, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.
I’ve listened to countless luncheon speakers over the years tell stories, share insights on their personal journeys, and provide checklists for higher performance. Using a novel as the centerpiece of the speech was an unexpected, but effective choice. It reminded me how long it’s been since I read anything to strengthen and refocus my leadership skills.
With beach season on the horizon, consider bringing along one book that will inspire you to grow or further your communication style. Here are five of my favorites (because none of them are long or complex):
· Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard—Chip and Dan Heath. Change is challenging, and it’s non-stop. Chip and Dan Heath talk about how difficult change is in our companies, our careers, and our lives, and how to overcome our resistance and make change happen.
· A Short Guide to a Happy Life—Anna Quindlen. A very quick read (think 20 minutes) about appreciating the small things that sometimes go unnoticed in our over-scheduled, bustling lives.
· Delivering Happiness—Tony Hsieh. The Zappos story, told from the beginning, is a compelling business read because of the brand’s amazing success. But the real takeaway is that if you get the company culture right, success follows.
· The Storytellers Secret–Carmine Gallo. Gallo is one of my personal favorites because he writes about communications. This book showcases stories and techniques from some of today’s most successful brand leaders. A fantastic resource for anyone who makes presentations or speeches.
· The Five Dysfunctions of a Team—Patrick Lencioni. This book is in a fable format. It’s easy to pick out your team’s dysfunctions and use practical steps to achieving team health. Teamwork is the ultimate competitive advantage.
I have a tattered clipping in my wallet that I fish out each January to read instead of writing New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know where it came from or how long I’ve had it (by the looks of it, more than 20 years). It reminds me of my goals as a leader, a parent, a friend, a business partner. I hope it will inspire you as well.
A new year is a new beginning, an open road. Make the most of it.
On this day:
• Mend a quarrel
• Search out a forgotten friend
• Dismiss a suspicion and replace it with trust
• Write a note to someone you miss
• Encourage a youth who has lost his way
• Keep a promise
• Forget an old grudge
• Examine your demands on others and vow to reduce them
• Fight for a principle
• Express your gratitude
• Overcome a fear
• Consider others’ perspectives when making a decision
• Take two minutes to appreciate the beauty of nature
• Tell someone you love them