Is your audience emotionally challenged?
Published: January 4,2012
Tags: Line of Communication
The beginning of a new year is often the time when an organization’s leaders reach out to communicate an exciting new vision and goals. While leaders may be pumped about their message, it is important to remember that in challenging times, employees may not be in the same state of mind. If you want your message to be the most effective, it is important to diagnose if your audience is emotionally challenged and, if the answer is yes, what they need to hear before they will hear the message you want to send.
One way to understand employee attitudes is to listen to them. This can be done a number of ways, from formal surveys to informal conversations with front-line supervisors and employees. Listen carefully for areas where employees are struggling to understand current business goals. Listen for any disconnects between actual performance and perceived performance. Listen for obstacles that make an average employee’s life harder than it needs to be.
Next, begin your new year communication by addressing what you uncover.
For example, are your employees still struggling to do more with less? Are they beyond burnout and now just dazed? Perhaps they need help understanding priorities. The new work reality is that there will always be more things to do than there are resources to get them done. Before your work force can get excited about new initiatives, they need to know what can come off their plates.
In a tough economy it is easy to see what didn’t work – maybe missed sales goals or a lag in payments? When employees are stressed, they will often focus on those negatives and miss out on where the organization is winning. Maybe the 2011 sales goal was missed because you landed a large new client and are making a first-year investment that will pay off in 2012? Find the good news employees may be overlooking and be sure they know about the company’s achievements, how they contributed to them, and how much they are appreciated.
Think also about how you will deliver your message. If your organization is too large for in-person meetings, consider the use of technologies that will bring you nearly face-to-face with every member of your team. Webinars or other tools can be set up to accommodate taking questions by phone or by e-mail in real time, like an instant message. So even if you can’t be in physical presence with employees, you can have a virtual presence where your listening, empathy, and sincerity can be realized more fully than through a corporate e-mail or newsletter. And, it can provide the two-way interaction that will further help your work force feel like it has a voice and is being heard.
Employees want to hear from you. They want to know your vision so they can align with your direction. But they also need to know their needs are being heard and addressed. At this time when we all need to perform at higher levels, it is critical that leaders remove any obstacles that might get in the way. One way to do that is to understand any emotional roadblocks your work force may be facing. Then, acknowledge them, even if you can’t completely resolve them. It goes a long way toward building trust – the bridge you need to get beyond 2011 so you can lead your organization into a brighter 2012.
Michelle Hicks is a communications consultant with Buck Consultants.