Communication Matters

Communication Matters

By Judith Lindenberger |

As a human resources consultant, I have conducted many employee surveys over the years to ascertain what employees like about their workplaces and what they think needs to be changed. In many cases, one of the key recommendations from employees to make the workplace better is “provide better communication.”

What do employees want to know about? They want to know before a change occurs that it is coming. They want to know why the change is happening. And most of all, they want to know how it will affect them. If you can get ahead of your communications efforts by providing answers to these questions, your employees will be less stressed, more productive, and your change efforts will be more successful.

According to A Manager’s Guide to Communicating with Employees, “from a communications perspective, employees feel appreciated and valued when:

– they are the first to hear important news

– they are regularly consulted

– they are listened to

– their suggestions are acted upon.”

Some of the best ways I have found to communicate with employees are as follows:

  1. Send mass emails for communicating information that is timely such as an office closing due to bad weather.
  2. Conduct regular staff meetings to discuss department news, delegate work, and share information from senior management.
  3. Conduct regular Town Hall meetings, hosted by senior leaders, to provide high-level information about upcoming events or give status updates. Anticipate and welcome questions from your audience.
  4. Encourage employees to let you know what’s not working and offer their suggestions for improvement. Create a culture where open communication – the good, the bad and the ugly – is sanctioned.
  5. Provide a suggestion box and reward good ideas. Let employees know that suggestions need to be positive, respectful of others, and doable. For example, “Fire my manager” is not an appropriate use of a suggestion box.
  6. Walk around the office and be available for spontaneous conversations.
  7. Meet regularly with employees, one on one, to discuss their performance.
  8. Conduct fun teambuilding exercises and meeting ice-breakers for employees to get to know one another.

Finally, to be a good communicator, make sure that you have been heard. Ask questions to learn if your message has gotten through to your audience. As George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

I am curious… what are your best ideas for effective workplace communication?

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How Do I Communicate Better With People at a Distance?

By Kevin Eikenberry November, 2015


How Do I Communicate Better With People at a Distance?

The saying goes; absence makes the heart grow fonder.

While that may be true in some cases, another old saying is also true:

Out of sight, out of mind.

Both hold shades of truth for any of us wanting to communicate more effectively with people when we are separated by space. More often though, the second holds more truth at work than does the first.

If you are in business today, you likely deal with this situation at least occasionally. But most of us deal with it every day. This situation is; Communicating with customers or prospects, Communicating with vendors, Communicating with colleagues on projects, or, Communicating with people we lead who don’t live nearby.

In a simpler time, the communication options at our disposal were few, and the number of these situations relatively rare.

Not true today – and more tools haven’t exactly made it easier. I can’t “solve” this challenge for you in one short article; but what I can do is give you five things to think about that will help when you apply them, and as you will see tools are only part of the solution.


Talk About It

While it might not seem necessary to talk about how we will talk with someone, we know that communicating at a distance creates challenges. That means we might need to do things differently. Talk to people about how they best like to communicate, what is helpful to them, what times of the day work best for them and more. When you create some understanding and agreements about your communication, you have taken a big step towards improving it for a long time to come.


Pick Your Tools Wisely

It’s harder than it used to be because there are so many choices. Are you going to call or email? Are you going to Skype, Facetime or Hangout? Or maybe you will Text, IM, Yammer, or Slack? You might use the conference line or WebEx or GotoMeeting? Are you going to use video or not? Is a voice mail helpful or not? How about a business line or cell phone?



Think about the tools you have at your disposal and talk about which ones you are going to use. And then, whichever ones you select, make sure that both parties (or all parties) are comfortable with using these tools. This is a level of complexity we never had to consider when we would just walk down the hall and all we had was a land line. Make sure whatever tools you use will be successful.


Pick Your Tools Situationally

And it isn’t just about the tools themselves, it is about using them at the right times for the right purposes. There are times when a text message may meet the communication need. And yet, it can’t be the only tool in your bag. Emails are great for many things, but aren’t good for a conversation – after two or three emails in a thread, pick up the phone. Since we aren’t able to be face to face, video can be the next best thing – use it when talking about complex or challenging issues. Own several different hammers. Pick the right one for the task, and that is what you need to do as a communicator as well.


Make Time

If you want your remote communication to be more effective, you must invest the time for it. Because it is more complex, you can’t just take it for granted or just let it happen. If you want to have effective communication with people you must communicate with them, and when you don’t see people in the parking lot, at the coffee pot or in the hallway, you have to make the time for those conversations. This leads to the fifth point.


Plan Time

As a leader, you might see this idea as putting some time on the calendar for “one-on-ones” with your remote folks. This is a good idea, but I mean more than that. First, it doesn’t just apply to leaders – if you are a co-worker at a distance, put time on the calendar with folks. When you do that you make the conversation intentional, you make sure it happens, and you fundamentally change your relationship with the other person. They know you care enough to put the time on your calendar. Don’t underestimate the emotional value of that.


Looping back to the first point above, make sure that the times you set make sense on your agreements about frequency and time of day. It is one thing to just get on someone’s calendar; it is another when you force it to work on your schedule and timeline.


If you are a leader of a team where some (or all) of those team members are remote from you, we have a range of ways to help you improve your effectiveness. You can learn more about those services here.


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Being Liked And Respected And Building Leaders

Steven Lay (October 08, 2015)

Abstract Popularity Concept. Many Yellow Balls with One Red Ball in the Center.

Having spent a portion of my life in the Navy I have always been intrigued with leadership styles, skills and whether effective leadership can be acquired or whether it is an innate attribute. The fundamental discussion about leadership is: Would you rather be liked, respected or feared? Coincidentally, my interest is around wine tasting room experiences and team building in general.

Before the question is discussed and hopefully answered consider the following discussion points.

  • Are good leaders recognized differently within various industries? For example, would a person appreciated as being a good leader in one industry/company, let’s say a company that drills for oil, be a good leader in a software development company? Such considerations are not far fetched as businesses in America reach out for leaders in disparate industries. In this case we are not addressing business sectors but rather industries.
  • Culturally, are there different desired leadership criteria applied to women versus men? In a recent article that appears in Yahoo! News, there was a discussion around the special leadership skills of women that are leading companies and their successes. Not surprising, the author was commenting on Ms. Marissa Mayer who is the CEO of Yahoo. E-bay, HP, GM, and IBM, just to name a few others, have women heading up large companies with complex structures.
  • Do skill sets have a bearing on who is recognized as a great leader? For example, in industries where the majority of people possess creative skills (art, acting, and music for example), do they have a different standard for good leaders? The music industry would probably put a different set of values on leaders who understood the idiosyncrasies of creative people. Further, there are occasional reports on how various performers (in movies and on stage) are respected, but not liked and might go so far as to be hated. We have just touched upon the concept that leading personalities can be respected but not liked. And, some of those opinions may not be universally accepted within an industry.
  • It is obvious that not everyone in an organization will like a leader, no matter what he/she would or could do to ingratiate themselves with their team. These feelings can be rooted in a person’s values, culture, age, work history and the list can go infinitum. Leaders that chase the “wan ‘a-be liked by everyone” theorem will find it to be self destructive; it will never happen.
  • As roles within a team change, expect opinions relative to a person’s likability and respect quotient will change. The interpersonal dynamics within an organization are always different when viewed as-employer by employee, and conversely, employee by employer.
  • The effort expended within an organization to be liked and respected, can those attributes translate into improvements in the sales effort? Ask in another way: Are sales people more successful by being liked or respected.
  • Is charisma part of the leader’s skill set? Charisma does not seem to be as universally accepted or recognized as being liked and respected. It can be a fine line between that and arrogance and disrespect. Mostly, it is a personality trait that can be tenable.
  • Can a majority on a team that respects and/or likes their leader influence a minority group in a team who hold their leader in less regards. Intimidation can be the glue that binds in negating opinions of the minority.

Back to the question-as a leader of a team/organization, would you rather be liked, respected or feared? As discussed earlier, let’s discount the use of fear as a leadership tool because once it is used by a leader it is akin to un-ringing a bell. Fear as a leadership style is not a foundation a successful company is built upon by good leaders.

Being left with likability and respect, based upon military and corporate experiences, I would say good leaders have both skills. The percentage mix between the two will change based upon economic environment, industry, changes in objectives and strategies, workforce changes and the function the leader is in charge of (sales, manufacturing, operations, finance, etc.). This being said, there are still some fundamental rules that apply to being liked and respect and both are acquired/required skills.

As a leader of a team, it is generally agreed that we want to be liked and respected. We also recognize not everyone will like us but should respect us, and the environment will dictate leadership style. But, there are some general rules relative to how to interact with people on a day to day basis that build likability and respect.

Always try to make people feel good about their relationship with you, their leader. Be accessible to all members of the team. This means treating people equally, which is different than the same. New people to a team require more leading than veterans on a team. But, veterans respect being treated a little more hands-off and respect a leader delegating more.

Transmit via actions and words to the team that they are collectively and individually appreciated and they are respected. It is not enough to tell team members you see their successes even if you don’t comment on them. That is a cheap way of saying you don’t care to go out of your way to comment and show appreciation.

By deed show people they do matter to the team within the organization and even beyond. Develop ways to recognize a team member individually for achievements outside of work.

Work on being a good likeable and respected leader daily. In the Navy I liked and respected a specific senior officer because every morning he came aboard excited about the day, the mission and his staff. He made sure he said good morning to everyone and ask how they were doing. He really listened to their answers. He would write personal notes to spouses and families who were experiencing joy and defeats. He was a good leader everyone liked. He sounded gruff but everyone knews it was an act. In later years it was a skill I tried to develop.

I also learned that you do not intrude into someone’s job. Senior leaders are respected more when they lead and not come down to team members level to try and prove they are just the same and willing to “get their hands dirty”. People want to be lead and respect their leaders with pride. Senior leaders fight for their teams and hand out justifiable corrective actions fairly.

Leadership is fun, requires a lot of daily effort, requires being involved, must recognize that there is maintenance time involved to keep things in balance and in the end it is rewarding. This is why I am a big fan in saying that team leaders require team building events also; because change is inevitable!

Now we can call attention to some specifics. Some of these are in every management 101 course but still worth reviewing because of contextual changes in teams and organizations. Creating and building likability or respect requires some thought.

Use a person’s name. I have written a lot about winery tasting rooms and some changes in that activity. Let me give you an example of a recent experience my wife and I had at a tasting. We did have a reservation and when we arrived we were not ask for our name, we were ask the time of our reservation. At that point the hostess called us by name, wrote our name on a table tent card and took us to our table. When the concierge came to our table (we were outdoors) he saw our name and commented on the spelling and asks about the origin of the name. He always referred to us as Mr. and Mrs. Lay. Very classy and made us feel important, and yes we bought wine and gladly paid for the tasting also.

Ask people questions to let them talk about themselves. When they reply make eye contact and listen to them respond. Never let outsiders or distractions take away from listening to a team member or customer.

Smile at people as a way to acknowledge you are interested in them and are listening to them.

Include new arrivals into the personal space of a small group discussion. This can be done by stepping to the side to make room in the circle or simply touching a person on the shoulder or arm.

Volunteer to help others outside of your own team. Such a move will not only be recognized as giving of yourself but it reinforces your standing within your own team.

Stay positive in supporting all management. Everyone has faults and differences of opinions, which are fine. But, piling-on is not helpful to a team leader building likability or respect and does not help with clients or customers.

Be genuinely interested in the customer, the team members and vendors. Their opinions do matter in building a leaders reputation as a good leader that is respected and liked.

The active and passive feedback you will receive from your personal contacts will also allow you to put the right people in the right job. This will allow you to make good delegating decisions. From all feedback you will be able to make the right decisions on training and team building events. And keep asking your team what you can do for them to make their job or life better at the company and in their home. Remember, the majority of a team member’s time is at and thinking about their job.

Being likeable and respected is asking for peoples input, accepting input and putting it into a plan and recognizing individual and team performance relative to the plan. When the team wins, the fans win also. A lead is likeable when they are the biggest fan of the team.

In the final analysis, I agree with an author I once read that put it very succinctly: Respect is linked to competence and productivity, and I add, likability without respect is less effective.

I got on this subject because leaders are also made, yes, some are also born. But somewhere along the trail inherited DNA allowed them to bring it out due to some triggering events. I believe the simplest of wineries can employ leadership, likability and respect skills to help sell wine and build a winery operation.

Think about likability and respect and how these power tools are available to you and don’t get esoteric about thinking about it.

Let me leave you with a “rubber meets the road” story.

I first met a one man winery owner, with a small vineyard, and he does it all; prune, crush, bottle, greet visitors and sell his own wine. His wines are great. His tasting room is small, quaint and unassuming. I see him maybe once every year or so. He always comes out from behind his counter when my wife and I come in and greats us both warmly with a hand on the shoulder. He never forgets to ask about our health and reminds us that wine is good for health. He genuinely wants to hear about our young granddaughters and our son and daughter-in-law and his eyes are as intense as his smile when you talk to him. Everybody in his tasting room gets the same greeting. He is liked and respected. He says what he means and means what he says and it is always positive. I would say he is a very smart, real leader, who is willing to share his secrets to fine wine.

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Why the Best Leaders Don’t Have Favorites

22 Feb 2013 – By Stefani Yorges –


Growing up, I was the “teacher’s pet” my fair share of times. So I know how it feels to be favored. I also know how it feels to have a supervisor dislike me.

Fresh out of graduate school, I arrived at the university for my first year of teaching psychology. I had barely settled in to my office when I sensed the disdain of the Chairperson of my department. But he barely knew me! He certainly knew little about my work, my interests, or my ability to connect with students in the classroom. Yet it was undeniable. I was getting the worst assignments, classroom locations, and teaching schedules.

A colleague also pulled me aside and pointed out that I was not getting access to many of the resources typically provided to junior faculty (grants, release time for research, etc.). What was going on here? I wondered, “What did I do wrong?”

As difficult as academic jobs are to find, I started to look around. Fortunately, he moved out of the position so I didn’t have to.

Leadership researchers have actually studied this phenomenon for years. They have found that leaders interact differently with each of their subordinates; they don’t treat them all the same.

The Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) theory focuses on the quality of that “exchange” relationship. Research confirms that leaders place subordinates into the ‘in group’ or the ‘out group’ very early and on the basis of surprisingly little information. Sometimes the choice is simply made based on similarity to personal characteristics – appearance, age, gender, and so forth. The decision is typically made within the first five days. And once you’ve been assigned, it’s nearly impossible to change.

  • The in-group clearly consists of the favorites. Observations in the workplace indicate that supervisors show special attention to this group. They talk to them more frequently (and about more personal topics), they are more concerned with their progress, and they place more trust in them. This group gets more mentoring and more privileges. They also get higher performance ratings.
  • The out-group gets far less attention, fewer favors, and less interaction in general. When leaders do communicate with members in this group, it is with a more directive and authoritative manner. Results suggest that these individuals end up less satisfied with their jobs and more likely to quit. This is unfortunate.

As a leader, your goal should be to have a high-quality relationship with every individual. Observe your own behavior – does it fit the patterns described above? If you’ve been playing favorites, try to resist this tendency. Strive to manage each exchange relationship so that no one is “out.”

It’s natural to give more attention to those that you feel connected with, as well as those who seem to put in extra effort. There will always be those who don’t relate well with others or perform to your standards. But don’t let that become an excuse to neglect them or ignore their development.

Ideally, as a positive leader and role model, you give everyone a chance to improve. You need them and they need you. You’re all playing for the same team after all. The goal is that by the time you leave that role, everyone is better off for having worked under your supervision.

China leadership transition edges forward

12 Nov 2012 – AAP –

China’s leadership transition has formally edged ahead, with the executive body of the Communist Party Congress forwarding a list of names to congress delegates for review.

State media reported that the congress’s administrative committee, 41 current and former members of the leadership, approved the candidate list for the Central Committee and sent it to the delegates on Saturday.

The delegates will cast votes before the congress closes on Wednesday to choose the Central Committee, a roughly 350-member body.

The Central Committee, in turn, will select the top leadership.

The move is largely a formality, as is the congress itself. Deciding the line-up of leading bodies falls to a small group of power brokers.

Vice President Xi Jinping has been all but formally announced to replace President Hu Jintao as party chief and president.

China Central Television showed Hu addressing the meeting of the presidium, which was presided over by Xi.

Candidates for the Central Committee outnumber seats by only a small portion, giving the 2268 congress delegates little choice except on the margins.

In addition to the name list for Central Committee members, the meeting also forwarded candidate lists for the party’s internal watchdog agency, state media reported.