Leadership Communication

Hello and thank you for joining me today. My name is Lisa Brock. I am the HR Business Partner here at Tandem HR and I will be taking you through the leadership communication webinar. So, thanks again for joining and we’re excited to be able to present this to you.

Let’s jump in and start discussing a little bit of understanding communication and leadership. When you think of leadership, you may find yourself not only thinking of leadership in your organization, but you might be thinking of those past experiences that have with leadership directly with you. For example, a past leader or a current one. We tend to remember things based on our range of emotions. How something made us feel is when we tend to remember better the actual moment. For example, if you had a bad experience with a previous leader, and they made you feel bad, you will remember that. Or the opposite can be true. If a leader made you feel really good, they helped support your development, and they really listened to you, you will seem to remember that as well. So, if you think about either a past or current leader, what was your interaction with them like? Did they listen and did they communicate well? How did that make you feel? How did they themselves make you feel? When an individual is promoted to leadership, they tend to use these experiences to mold their own leadership around what they liked and what they didn’t like. When you think of what kind of leader you want to be, you should really ask yourself these questions. Are you motivated to lead? Do you interact well with others? Are you open to feedback? Or do you have difficulties having conversations around those difficult situations with employees? Are you trustworthy and can be accountable for your team? These are great questions to ask if you want to move into leadership. Leadership is not for everyone. But if you want to be a successful leader, you must be open and willing to develop yourself and always open to learn. The fundamental piece of a successful leader is communication and that is what we will be discussing today.

As a leader, your job is to inspire and empower those around you. Without good communication, you are not understood or heard. And this is not the type of communication that you really want. It’s not any type of communication, it’s about effective communication. This list provides a few examples of what can happen without effective communication. For example, it can lead to poor relationships with employees such as frustration or distrust, and confusion. Poor communication can also create a very tense environment with less motivation to be productive. There is less collaboration as well as it can negatively impact the bottom line. If your organization has done engagement surveys in the past, what seems to be the reoccurring theme here? It usually has to do with leadership communication and internal transparency. Does this sound familiar to you? As a leader, you want to get the most out of your team members. So, communicating effectively enhances that productivity through expertise and the morale within your organization or within your team. So, all of these things are very important when we talk about communication effectively between the leaders and the staff.

So, let’s get into a little bit of some statistics on communication in leadership. There are some attention-grabbing statistics out there on how communication affects leadership. Sixty-three percent of employees say leaders don’t recognize their achievements. Recognizing achievements not only helps with employee engagement, but it also reinforces to individuals what they are doing right so they can continue repeating that same great work. Fifty-seven percent of employees believe their leaders do not give clear directions. If employees do not have clear directions, how can they achieve the necessary work without delays? So, this can lead to very frustrated employees, or other issues. Ninety-six percent of executives say that ineffective communication leads to workplace failures. This statistic is a result of not getting very clear directions. Seventy-five percent of employees leave their job because of poor management. Leaders, they don’t want to fail. They don’t go into leadership thinking that they’re going to be, say, bad leaders on purpose. They may think they’re doing everything right and just don’t understand what they’re missing. This is why we are discussing this really important topic and we are here to help you as leaders to be effective communicators.

As a leader, you are moving from the present to the future through structured communication. Starting with the clear expectations of goals, and your mission from your organization, you want to describe the roadmap to the future. So, how do you do that? How to you move from the present to the future? Well first we need to trigger that action in your team. You have to do that by showing commitment to the action. You can do this through mobilizing and providing a path that will keep employees engaged. So, again, first things first, with the future goals and the mission. This is the important part, that’s the foundation. A leader then must build that foundation of trust and to build that foundation, leaders need to speak to understand and share vulnerabilities around work. You can do that by sharing how you feel about a change or sharing your vulnerabilities about concerns that you have regarding a change that might be coming. And that’s another way to show to employees that you yourself as a leader, you still have those concerns as well. And you share them, there’s that trust. Having that trust is really part of that foundation. And this will continue to move the path forward toward accomplishing the goal. Then, you’re going to want to revisit the why. You want to always revisit the why as often as necessary. And the importance of making those changes to achieve the future goals.

Employees are divided into two separate parts. Excuse me, let me rephrase that. Employees’ needs are divided into two separate parts. There are emotional needs and hands-on needs. So as natural human beings we seek out a sense of belonging relating to others and also being understood in a social setting. Employees who are engaged and who are satisfied with their job, they have their emotional needs met by their leaders. There’s a wonderful quote that says, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” And communication really is an art. So, the other aspect, the second part of the employee needs, we call the hands-on. And the hands-on is more of the everyday items employees need to do their job well. Such as – resources for a project or maybe having barriers removed to achieve a goal. Have you ever had an employee come to you and specify any type of barriers that they’re not able to overcome on their own in order to achieve their project deadline? Those are the things as leaders that we need to remove for the employee so that they can achieve that goal. Employees really want to contribute. They want to provide value and they want to have purpose. Again, it’s going back to that natural human being instinct that we have. So, when employees aren’t able to do that, frustration can easily set in, and they can’t accomplish those goals. And sometimes, those barriers that are affecting them are out of their control. So, they really need to be able to lean on you as a leader to help them overcome those barriers and then achieve their goals. So, again, it is indeed an art to be able to communicate to achieve meeting both of these needs. However, leaders who do – will have less turnover and they will definitely have happier and engaged employees.

We’re going to discuss a little bit about how to meet employees’ emotional needs. So, one thing we want to look at is empathy. So, when discussing a concern with an employee or something that an employee brings to you, it’s important for the leader to really empathize or try to relate to their employees. What are they saying exactly? So, what I mean by that is, leaders can do this in two ways. One, they consider their employee’s thoughts or feelings. So, for example, if I were in their position – and this is what a leader would think – if I were in their position, I might think this, or I might feel this way or the leader could say to themselves, how would I feel if I were in their position? Using empathy does not mean you have to agree with the employee’s feelings. But what you are trying to accomplish or what you are trying to say to them is I hear you and I see how this is affecting you. So, first is we always lead with empathy when we go into any difficult conversations or anything that the employees bring to us that might be difficult. Issues, concerns – always lead with empathy first. This also helps if you’re diffusing a very upset or frustrated employee. If you lead in with empathy and you can see that they’re visibly upset and you mention that and say, I see that this really upset you, this usually brings the escalation of their frustrations and how much they’re upset down a notch or two so that they can actively now start thinking through actions and then they also can think more logically about what’s happening verses more on the emotional side. The next step on providing that effective communication under the employees’ emotional needs is support. It’s important to provide support without taking away the work. So, asking the employee how you can support them or what do they need to get the task done ensures you fully support them doing the task that is assigned and you also want to see them succeed. But you don’t necessarily have to give the task to somebody else or step in and do the task on your own. You want to provide the support where you can. And then the third would be involvement. So, leaders that are successful with communication use involvement. You want to involve the employees with decisions or changes. The reason why is because they will be the ones most likely implementing the change. And because they understand the everyday workflow, they can speak to the processes or process that might work or might not work or fail. So, if you have an example of a change coming down, and you present that to the employees and the employees say, actually this works to maybe their third step, then it doesn’t work because of x,y,z then they can maybe provide other suggestions or solutions on how it will work better so that it is successful. Again, employees want to be valuable. They want to see things succeed in the organization and they want to contribute. So, getting them to be involved in some of those decisions really helps ensure that those changes of processes and implementations of say, systems, can be more successful with their input. And also, will save, possibly, delays in the new project or in the new process actually being implemented because you’re being proactive with fixing any possible upcoming issues in the future that you could have. So, again, if they can provide suggestions on how the new process will work, or it will most likely succeed, and this will also provide buy-in for the change when you are making changes and it increases employee engagement. Again, employees want to feel value, and they want to be able to provide insight to things. So, this really helps with their engagement, and you also have less pushback in any upcoming changes.

So now that we talked a little bit about how what we can do to effectively communicate for the emotional needs, we’re going to look at the other part of the practical side of the employees’ needs, the hands-on. One way to effectively communicate for the practical side is by having scheduled or unscheduled time with employees. So scheduled time, you’d want to be more structured. You’re looking at possibly one-on-one time, meetings, more structured either team meetings or individual meetings. And this is an opportunity to stay connected. The other would be the walk-around or the in-prompt meetings when you run into employees and to have other discussions. Just walking around, just talking about how their day is going, checking in, and getting an idea as to what the employees are up to really makes them feel as though you do care as a leader what their day-to-day looks like and you’re checking in to see if they need any support. Not micromanage. We’re looking more at how their day is coming along. Do they need anything specific from you as a leader today? During the walk-arounds, it’s really important to remember to use people’s names so that they feel it’s more personable and they’re not just an employee or a number, that they’re a real person. And also, even if you remember small snippets of their day about maybe an upcoming birthday party that they have for a child, or maybe that there’s something exciting maybe they have a child who’s in sports that has an upcoming game. Try to remember those things because then when you walk around again, you can utilize those stories and bring it back to the employee to say, hey how did your son do at their baseball game? Or how did that birthday party go for your daughter? So those are things that really take to employees and have a little bit of a personal touch where they feel as though their leader does really do care about them. And they’re more likely to be more engaged and happier with their job because they feel more as their leader looks at them as a person and truly cares about them and wants them to be happy versus, they’re just another person walking the halls. Staying proactive with those everyday meetings or even proactive with the structured meetings helps to really stay proactive with changes coming and why. So, in those meetings, whether it’s walking around or they’re the scheduled one-on-ones, you can use that time to let them know of anything new that could be coming down the pipeline as far as something changing or a new process and again, the why. Why we’re doing that. And using involvement, and this builds trust. So, keeping them proactively in the know that something’s coming, it really helps with that everyday engagement and that effective communication because then they’re not taken by surprise when it finally does happen, and they’re not upset as though that there was no transparency with the upcoming changes. So again, we’re going back to, you know, you think about the engagement surveys if you do have those that transparency usually pops up when we talk about effective communication. So, during the scheduled meetings, one thing to really discuss, and you’re going to want to discuss with your employees is development. This is an important time to be able to talk about those things and see how you as a leader can help your employee. So, for example, what I mean by development is if the employee is a top performer and you really want to retain that employee, you need to understand their long-term career path. So, for example, if the employee wants to be a leader themselves, maybe someday or maybe quickly around the corner, you can tell them that you can assist them by getting them some leadership training. If that’s something that your company is able to do, this is a proactive way to start building good habits as a leader and providing them effective training as a leader to set them up for success. If we start early with that, you’ll have a lot of successful leaders that you’re able to promote from within. And this shows to other employees that you do truly care about their development and career path and want to retain them and you’ll go to lengths to try and get them there. Or, for example, if the employee isn’t happy within their current position, you can discuss with the employee maybe other avenues or other positions within the organization that based on their skills or based on their expertise, they would really excel in. Showing your interest in your employees this way really, again, builds trust and provides more engagement to them. So, they again, don’t feel like just another number or another employee. They feel as though the organization does really care about their career path and meeting those needs for them. And want to retain them as an employee for the long term. Also, during the scheduled meetings, if the employee does have performance opportunities, this is a perfect time to discuss those and understand why they are having these issues. As a leader, you want to understand what do they need to improve their work performance, and if we do that, we’re being proactive before those performance writeups begin. We might be able to fix those issues with the employee and they’re definitely not taken off guard or taken by surprise once they finally do get a performance review or writeup if they’re having continued issues because of the discussions that you’ve had with that employee during the scheduled meetings. In the long run, what you’re really trying to do is, you’re trying to give them the support so that they don’t have continued performance issues versus having to do the writeups. Because again, you’re wanting to retain employees as much as possible because of the cost associated with turnover. If you can work with the employee and you can get the help that they need so that they are successful, that’s really the path you want to take and by being proactive this way, you can ensure that you keep your employees. So, the last thing you’re going to want to look at when we’re looking at the more hands-on practical side is summarizing. And what I mean by summarizing is you want to summarize the conversations that you’ve had, whether those are walk-throughs or whether those are structured meetings, you want to summarize and provide the employee the information so that you’re both on the same page. So, you know what they’re saying, and you can verbally or by email maybe you can send them an email, let them know of what you understand that they’re trying to convey and understand that you’re both on the same page as to what’s next. And this is really helpful too for action items. So, if there’s any action items that come out of the meeting, whether it’s your action items that you’re taking on or it’s maybe some action items that the employee has taken on, this gives them that opportunity to reinforce who’s doing what and everyone understands the next steps. So, when you summarize, you again, you can summarize that verbally or you can write it down and send that to them by email for reinforcement and also for document purposes. So, make sure to take notes even if you don’t send an email because it’s a lot to remember sometimes and it is very helpful to be able to read back on your notes. Some of those important topics so you don’t forget anything for your next scheduled meeting. So again, discussion, develop, summarize. All of these are all three aspects that are important when we talk about effective communication on the practical side, the hands-on side of the employee’s needs.

We’re going to dig a little bit deeper into the discussion side that we just spoke of and also with summarizing with regards to feedback. So, in those scheduled reoccurring check-ins when you’re communicating to employees, during that time you’re going to have feedback. Giving and receiving feedback is very important and you want to keep in mind that feedback needs to be structured, it needs to be specific, and you need to provide examples of say, a task or an action, what happened, and what the end result is. And what I mean by that is, it’s a lot easier for the employee and yourself to understand the feedback and why the feedback is so important because of the actual end result. So, for example, when you’re providing feedback on a customer service to one of your employees – maybe they had really good customer service – you might say to them as an example, you did an awesome job helping Mr. Jones last Tuesday. He was really upset that his order was late, and then after you apologized that his order was late due to shipping issues, you offered him a discount on his order. And you offered him a discount on the next order. He seemed very satisfied with this and with providing him with a discount on the next order, he will now most likely buy again from us. So, that gives us another chance to get it right next time. Would you mind if I shared this great example regarding Mr. Jones’ customer service with our team? When you do this, when you give them the specific task, you’re telling them what happened, what the action was, and then the result. And the result was it provided Mr. Jones a greater customer service experience. Not only are you providing the result, you’re reinforcing what that employee did right. So that way next time if this occurs, they know that they were on the right track and they’re most likely going to revisit the same outcome. And, by recognizing them for this great action that they did and the end result, if you recognize them with the other team, you’re recognizing them for their great effort and great customer experience. And you’re reinforcing the right action to the team members, so they learn from this, so that they learn what this employee did right and by recognizing, you’re showing them the right path. So, all good things coming out of feedback and recognition at the same time by being very specific and providing the results. Same would go here if it’s an action opportunity. So, with an opportunity, you’re going to talk about the tasks that happen, the action, and then the end result of how it became. The only difference here is with it being an opportunity of making something better, you’re going to talk to them about the alternative result. So, for example, if this situation had gone badly, you could say, maybe next time if Mr. Jones comes in and there is an issue with his order or another customer comes in and has an issue with their order, you could ask them or provide them a discount on their current order and the future one. So that would be the alternative result of providing that to them. Because maybe sometimes employees don’t know what to do. So, providing them the alternative result, they can understand and they can learn from that and use that example. So again, receiving and giving feedback is very important, but it’s also important to be specific and provide the end result.

We’re going to talk a little bit about recognition like we just did. Again, reviewing the timeliness, whether it’s in a structured meeting or could be, you know, you’re walking around and chit-chatting with your employees. Any type of recognition needs to be timely. Telling somebody that they did a great job on their customer service from 6 months ago, most likely they’re probably going to forget, or other people might forget, and it just doesn’t have the same effect on the employee if it was done a long time ago. It does in fact have a very significant impact if you do it very instant and, again, reinforcing them what they’re doing right so that they continue doing those right things. So being timely with your recognition when you’re having those discussions is very important when we talk about those communications to employees, and specific. So, we discussed a little bit ago about being specific with the tasks and being specific with the action. Again, specific helps them understand the actual situation that either went right or the situation that went wrong. Reinforcing to not only the current employee that it affects but the other employees’ rights and wrongs as far as the right path to take. This is all part of the development as well. All of these things are great to have when you’re trying to develop your employees. Being specific is not saying, hey great job! That’s not being specific because the employee is thinking, great job on what? So, again, telling them specifically what they did a great job on really helps them understand.

And finally, the performance reviews. Performance reviews are very important to help the continuation of those scheduled meetings or possibly the one-on-ones and walk-arounds that you do with your employees. The performance reviews are not supposed to be feedback that they hear for the first time. Like I just mentioned, it should be a continuation of those conversations because when an employee isn’t doing well, they shouldn’t be surprised to hear it the first time during a performance review. The performance reviews is more of a goal and more of a – where have we gone from where we started. So, the performance reviews should really be about the work itself and how they’re coming along with that work. Are we doing good? Are we meeting those goals? Are we meeting our mission? And that’s kind of your indicator to keep pushing forward, to meet those future items. So, again, a lot of the time, the discussions that you have in the structured meetings, or the one-on-ones, you can actually compile those notes easier by putting them when you get to the performance review. You can use those for the performance reviews. And again, they’re not anything new. You already know if the employee is doing well. They know how they’re doing. There’s no surprises. And remember, goal setting is also really important for not just the time being but the future of the following year and the achievements that we’re trying to meet. And so, we want to make sure we continue to have those either every 6 months or yearly.

Circling back to the two employee needs that we have, again, it’s emotional and hands-on. The employees who are engaged, and are satisfied with their job, they will have their emotional needs met by their leader. And just reiterating what those emotional needs again, those emotional needs are empathy, providing empathy to employees so that they understand that you see them as a person and not just another number. Even if you don’t agree with how they feel, it still shows that you are listening to them and that you hear their concerns. This also helps with de-escalating situations, and the other part is support. This is where we provide support to employees without removing the work. And then the third is involvement. The involvement aspect is, we’re getting employees involved in some of the changes that are coming and asking them for feedback or discussing how the changes will affect the process. This is an opportunity for the employees to be able to voice maybe something that’s not going to work within the new process. Or maybe a better effective way so that the new change or process is successful. The end result of getting employees involved is the employee engagement. That goes up. So those are the three aspects of emotional needs. Remember, the hands-on is more of the practical day-to-day work side that is having those meetings, those structured meetings and discussions, rather than those one-on-ones, whether they are just maybe team meetings, department meetings, or your day-to-day kind of walk-around where you’re trying to engage with the employee to see how things are coming along. And then the develop side is where we want to sit down and have those conversations about development, whether they want to be a future leader development in terms of retaining the employee and what we can do to help keep their career path down the right lane that they want to go to and what type of opportunities we can provide them within the organization and how their value and expertise are very much appreciated and we want to be able to continue them providing value and feeling valued, like a value contributor to the organization. And then summarize. This is where again we summarize the communication that we just had with the employee so that we know we are all on the same page and that we got the message. That they understood the message, the leader understands the message, and whether that’s verbally, you write them down in notes, or you email them to the employee. For example, if they have action items that they have to review or, maybe yourself, have some action items to get done by a certain time. All of those things are all the hands-on part of the emotional and hands-on practical part of trying to accomplish meeting the needs of employees.

So, what have we learned? This is our leadership communication conclusion that we will review. We talked about the importance of leadership communication, and we looked at statistics that affect leadership communication and the bottom line and why it’s so important to provide effective communication. We looked at the two areas that are needed to effectively communicate to employees. Those were the emotional and they were the practical hands-on needs. We talked about how we accomplish, how do we accomplish meeting those two areas. What do we need to do? We need to use empathy; we need to use support and involvement. That’s the emotional. How do we accomplish meeting the practical? Well, we have our meetings, we pay attention, we use names, we use recognition. We walk around and we remind people of what they did right and what they did maybe wrong, and we reiterate that and reinforce it. And then the final thoughts on leadership and communication again, was reminding that you as a leader, sometimes we are harder on ourselves than we should be. And leadership is hard. It’s hard to always know what decision you’re making is the right one it’s hard sometimes with different personalities trying to meet the needs of your employees. So, remember that always leading with empathy first will get you the farthest. Understanding that people have day-to-day emotional needs and practical needs, you will be successful if you remember to use some of these resources and examples that we’ve given you today or that I’ve given to you today. And remember that you can always reach out to your HR Business Partner to assist you when you’re having those difficult conversations and you’re just not being able to reach your employees effectively like you’d want, and we can always definitely help you with that. I really hope that you enjoyed the leadership communication today and we appreciate you spending the time to go through this with us. I truly believe that this will be helpful for you as a leader and again, be sure to reach out to us if you need anything at all and I hope you have a wonderful day.


lisa brock tandem hr steering effective change

HR Business Partner
Tandem HR
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