You cannot fix a communication problem by ignoring it.
The first time I experienced communication problems at work was at my afternoon job in high school. I had a boss who would tell me to do something, I would go do it, and then she would freak out asking me why I did what I did.
She actually made me feel crazy.
I talked with my careers teacher who had arranged for me to get this position (for school credit) and she recommended that I take notes during the conversation and either read them back to my boss afterwards as in “I understand you want me to do x, y, z” or email that statement back to her.
It felt really weird to do that at first, but what happened next was a game changer. My boss would correct where I heard something different from what she was trying to say or approve of my interpretation. It pretty much eliminated those weird melt downs after I completed tasks.
I don’t know why people communicate differently or why we hear what we want to hear, but I do know there are plenty of opportunities we can work on our communication together and get better.
I’m glad I had that experience early on to send back my notes for confirmation because it helped me prepare for future communication barriers.
What is something you’ve done to build better communication and understanding with your team?
I had an opportunity this past weekend to participate in the Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation Dragon Boat Race and Festival…. and y’all, I had a TON OF FUN!! What’s a Dragon Boat Race you might ask? My one word answer is AWESOME! You basically load up in this 46 foot boat with a nice little dragon head and tail on it and you row your heart out for around a minute! You have a drummer at the front and someone steering at the back. There’s this company that you can get to come to your city and help you put on a Dragon Boat Race and it’s a fantastic idea for a fundraiser (especially for a big project). This is the third year that Decatur has had a Dragon Boat Race and it gets bigger every year. This year there were a total of 69 teams! How did I get the chance to participate? Basically, my former co-workers miss me and they still invite me to things like this 🙂 (of course current employees get priority so if there was a current employee that wanted to participate in my place I would be out of luck). The other reason is because I have a big mouth and I’m very loud! See, each team has a drummer. The drummer is responsible for helping keep cadence and giving commands to the rowers from the person steering at the back of the boat and the team captain thought my loud mouth was perfect for that job. Sounds simple enough.
All good teams need practice so we scheduled our practice for Thursday (race was Saturday) and it’s a hot mess. I show up late (sorry guys-I drove the furthest to get there) and the instructor isn’t happy with me. This makes him completely ignore me the whole time we have practice and that makes me less than a happy camper. Let me tell you, sitting my wide ass at the front of the boat on that tiny seat where the drummer is supposed to sit was a little scary! I’m pretty sure I was hanging on for dear life the whole time I was up there, but our instructor gives the commands the whole time so I don’t even get to practice that with the group. After an hour everyone at least has an idea of what we need to do, but our instructor has no problem telling us we aren’t up to race speed. Now here I am thinking this is a charity event and we are here to have fun and this little mean guy is trying to rain on our parade. We wrap up practice and everyone heads their separate ways. We don’t even all know each other at this point, but its late and we all have other things to do. All I could think on my way home is “I weigh far too much to be sitting at the front of our boat.” So, maybe not the best practice ever, but hey at least we got in the boat together once, right?
Race day gets here and it’s like we have a whole new team. Several people show up that were not at practice (turns out you can practice with any team so these guys had been practicing with other teams). And some people were last-minute fill ins (my poor husband, he loves it when I drag him to an event and then need him to participate at the last-minute. He’s such a good sport!) for no shows or late comers. Oh and did I mention that I talked a smaller girl into being the drummer so now I’m rowing? You know, that other thing that I didn’t practice. All this to say we thought we had a plan, but now we had new people and no time to fill them in. Then we load the boat and the back of the boat starts to sink, I mean we were like the bad news bears out there! We get off the boat and re-load the way the person steering wants, only he puts too much weight on one side of the boat and the boat is tilted the whole time we are on the water! We paddle like crap. We clank and hit each other, water is going everywhere and we come in 5th place in our heat. While we all pretended this was okay because it’s for charity we couldn’t fight the urge to get off to a corner and get to work on a strategy for the next race. This event is in all day event so we had different people coming at different times since everyone couldn’t stay all day and this made coming up with a strategy a tad more difficult. We get off to the side we decide to line up, write down everyone’s weight, evenly distribute that weight across the boat, yell together when we row and just have a good time. We remind everyone that it’s not about moving fast it’s about moving together and we try again! The fun thing was once we had a goal and everyone was on the same page everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE had great input. It was like magic. We had a common goal and we started cooperating with each other, what a crazy thought right? Second race comes around and we place second. Man, are we fired up! We remind everyone what our goal is again and evaluate the last run on the boat to identify improvement. Third and final race comes around… first place baby! This somehow or another leads us to win in our division (there were so many teams that they divided us up into divisions and gave out awards to the winner in each division plus a championship for overall winner. We didn’t make the cut for the championship).
It was very cool that not only did we see immediate results by giving each team member some value and using their ideas, we had a freaking blast!! It had me thinking though, how often do we get frustrated at work because we don’t get to the end goal as fast as we want? Is it because we aren’t communicating the end goal and making sure everyone understands? Is it because we forget to give the team some buy-in so they don’t care about the end result? Is it because we aren’t constantly communicating our goal? Maybe it’s because we changed our strategy and forgot to tell the whole team? How much does a lack of cooperation have to do with failing? We can have a team without cooperation, but does cooperation make a team? What are your thoughts?
I had a quick conversation with one of my HR buddies the other day about an incident that brought up all those bad feelings I have when people forget the value of HR and the overall role HR plays. I talk about it a lot, not just online. I mostly take the angle of challenging HR professionals to communicate our purpose better, but sometimes it simply boils down to people, even HR, losing the big picture.
Huntsville, AL is full of government sub-contractors and that is still a fairly new world to me, but in a nutshell let’s review the simple foundation: employees working directly for a contract bill their work directly to that contract or contracts they are working on; employees who do not work directly for a contract, let’s call them essential business systems, bill indirectly. Those groups that bill indirectly are costing corporate directly. Their salaries and department budgets come directly out of overhead, basically they cost the company money. It’s sometimes easy for people, whether it be managers or the executive team, to focus on that one statement “you cost the company money”, but without essential business systems a “direct employee” cannot continue to do business on their own for the long-term.
Who is essential business systems? These could be human resources department (duh), business development, marketing, contracts, accounting, executive administrators, IT group, security, facilities etc. The other important piece often overlooked is that all of these groups have to work together like a well oiled machine for optimum results! If BD isn’t communicating with HR about possible business on the radar then HR probably isn’t getting prepared for the work that it will take to recruit new talent, identify internal talent, prepare benefits training or paperwork, gather salary information for comparison, generally speaking preparing the HR department to make the transition as smooth as possible for the possible customer and new employees. Another example is marketing cannot advertise for upcoming career fairs or college recruiting events if human resources/recruiters have not communicated that schedule to them. These examples could go on for days, but for the sake of time I’ll stop there.
Why this post? Please stop forgetting the big picture. Please understand that all essential business systems receive critique for costing the organization indirect dollars and that you are all in it together. Continue to communicate your purpose to the organization as a whole, but remember the other essential business systems are HRs kindred spirits.!
On our AL SHRM Hill visit this past week one of our topics we chose to discuss with our Congressmen/women and Senators was Tax Reform. Naturally, we threw in our own opinions on the topic as the day went on and I was disgusted when someone brought up that he couldn’t find any employees because everyone would rather stay on their “entitlements” than work for min wage, 8, 9, or $10/hr. This guy works for a temp service and considering that’s the majority of my background I couldn’t help but size him and his service up as a less than par “temp service”. I’m being judgemental and very cross in my summary, but I think that temp services would rather project that answer to their clients, network, employees and apparently congressmen than take some responsibility for this issue.
I’ll tell you one of my clients in my previous job started the majority of their temps at minimum wage. We were often greeted with sighs and grunts when trying to fill their positions because of the pay. And yes, a lot of times they said it would interfere with their food stamps/unemployment/cma/etc. So we had to start thinking outside of the box. I happen to believe that when “You know better, you do better” and took a shot at informing applicants. Communicating clearly where they could start with this position and where they could end with this position. What the pros and cons were for the programs they were depending on and the pros and cons for taking a position that may interfere with some of these programs. It was more time-consuming on the front end, but gave us far better results in our hiring process, eliminated walk offs and reduced turnover. There were still candidates that turned the positions down, but there were far more that accepted the positions and were able to maximize the opportunity to ultimately better themselves. Why so often do we underestimate the power of communication? #SPEAKUP
The mindset has to change, not just in the temp world, but in HR as a whole. On the hiring project I’m working on now I’ve recently had to send out almost 500 emails to candidates that we have not chosen for a position. I made a case to my employer that when people respond to those emails that we answer their questions. When they want to know why they weren’t chosen, we tell them. As HR we need to capture that opportunity to enhance the candidate pool in our own community. Sometimes people are making mistakes that they don’t even know are mistakes #KnowBetterDoBetter. Of course you still have the ones that will be angry or out to get you and you have to decide what you can pour your efforts into, but I don’t believe HR is only valuable to its current workforce, I believe HR is valuable to its past/present/future workforce and that means we have to offer advice and coaching to people who don’t work within our organization now.
Where are you missing communication? How is your HR team enhancing your community?