Never Miss the Opportunity to Communicate

Matt over at his OnlyOnce blog has a great post up titled, It Never Goes Without Saying.  Matt makes the case for why leaders and managers should take advantage of every opportunity to communicate messages, feedback, direction and vision.  What constitutes an opportunity?  Any event or “moment” as Matt calls them.  The post discusses creating such moments,

We human beings live for ‘moments.’  We mark time by observing regular occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays . . .

There’s no reason the workplace should be any different.  Think about these few examples where it could ‘go without saying,’ but where you’re so much better off creating that ‘moment’ . . . “

I think Matt makes a terrific point here, although I don’t think of such moments or events as needing creation; they already exist.  It’s the recognition of them that breaks down in most cases.  Matt concludes his post with the thought,

Clear, simple communication is the cheapest and easiest way to create a fun, rewarding, accountable, and focused work environment.”

So true.  Funny thing is, it’s the fact that it’s so cheap and easy that it tends to be ignored as a great tool.  Many leaders and managers think that there’s always time to do it, so they put it off.  Or, they’re afraid that they’ll dilute their message if they communicate it too often so they hold back waiting for the really big event to make a bigger showcase of it.

As a leader and manager, I’m afraid that I often missed opportunities to recognize events – usually because of the reasons above, but sometimes, I’m afraid, because I was so entirely focused on the big picture.  That singular focus resulted in my missing the fact that on a day-to-day basis, my big picture sometimes wasn’t the only thing on the minds of the people who worked for me.  Any journey is made up of loads of smaller journeys.  Some successful and others less so.  With my blinders on, I frequently missed the fact that the organization was succeeding and failing in small ways all along the path.  Duh.

This all became clear to me when I hired a new VP of Marketing whose first observation once inside the company was that there were few celebrations of anything.  He taught me the value of recognizing key events and as it turns out the even greater value of the way they were recognized.  I had always been on top of private recognition, but I was weak on public recognition.  Even within public recognition, it was always a few beers, pizza, a cake or two and maybe some entertainment.  Boooorrrring.

After finally getting it (yup, I’m slow and dense), I took the next opportunity to recognize a team that had just released a new product by riding my motorcycle into a meeting in our cafeteria and handing the team leader a plaque.  It was a bit difficult getting my bike up to the fifth floor of the building we were in, but that made it even cooler.  It was simple, but had a huge impact on people.  There was a noticeable impact on the energy in the organization.  We acknowledged an event, got to send the message that it was important and publicly recognized a successful team – all in about 2.5 minutes.  It was a great learning experience for me and had a hugely positive impact on the organization.

I can’t say that I got good at this event thing immediately, but I came to understand the value of doing such things and doing them relatively frequently.  Constant communication has tremendous value in organizations.  Using the recognition of events as opportunities to communicate is a powerful tool for making it happen.

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