Why you need to rethink how you are communicating with your team
By Jacob Espinoza
A lot of our workforce is pumping the breaks right now. This is in large part because our businesses have a communication problem.
The transition to work-from-home and hybrid work models has been rough for a lot of reasons. A big one is keeping a group’s attention in a virtual environment as people now have every distraction imaginable right in front of them, ready to steal their attention as you try to communicate an important message.
In office communication cadences are gone. For better or worse, much of the new workforce will never have the experience of working in an office.
So how are these communication problems impacting your team?
As more employees moved to work from home over the last two years, fewer say they know what is expected of them at work.
Gallup’s recent employee engagement survey found that only 46% of employees said they Strongly Agreed that they knew what was expected of them at work. This is down 10% compared to survey results from January 2020.
Pre-pandemic workforce engagement numbers were at an all-time high. But over the last two years, most have seen a decline. The engagement elements that declined the most were:
- Clarity of expectations
- Feeling cared about at work
- Opportunities to learn and grow
- Connection to the mission or purpose of the company
These are all communication problems.
Simply put, you need to be intentional about how you craft your message to ensure it is translated correctly regardless of whether it is an email, virtual meeting, or Slack message.
It’s easy for the meaning of a message to get lost when they are overcomplicated. So let’s look at a communication framework that will help ensure your team gets a clear message that inspires every time.
For those of you who want the big picture before we dive into the details, here is the framework:
G – Goal: Why is this important?
R – Reality: What is happening now?
O – Obstacles: What obstacles do we anticipate facing?
W – Way Forward: What is the path forward? Who is going to do what by when?
This model may look familiar to some of you with business coaching experience. Coaching, leadership, and communication all have one thing in common at their best: influence.
If you lead a team, this communication framework will help ensure everyone in your organization understands what’s expected of them and why their role is important.
- Your customers are taken care of,
- your employees remain engaged in their work,
- and your business grows.
When people have purpose and clarity, they will take action.
Let’s turn this into a car analogy.
Clarity is the oil. It removes friction and keeps things running smoothly. The purpose is the gas in their engine. It keeps the engine burning and the car moving.
I recommend writing down each of these to help you prepare for your next meeting or before writing your next email. (Better yet, steal this template I made for myself.) As you gain experience, you’ll eventually be able to use this framework as a mental checklist to ensure you’ve communicated clearly.
Obstacles in communication can come in many forms, such as unclear expectations, misaligned goals, and conflicting priorities. The GROW framework helps you identify and overcome these obstacles by providing a structured approach to communication.
Simon Sinek says “Start with Why”. Stephen Covey says “Start with the End in Mind”.
It’s all the same message. You need your team to know where they are going. Don’t assume they are filling in the blanks.
Remember that people are motivated by different things. Having a team that is fired up about your company winning is the goal, and you get there by ensuring they understand how they directly benefit from this success.
Be sure to answer these three questions while discussing the goal:
- How does the company benefit?
- How do the employees benefit?
- How do the customers benefit?
Don’t just talk about what you are seeing. Be sure to also include what you are hearing as you continue to listen to feedback.
Again, don’t assume they are filling in the blanks. Be intentional about explaining how you are listening to their feedback and the changes the organization is making because of it.
The reality is each level of your organization has a very different set of pain points. Know your audience for each message and speak to their specific needs. It will help them see that you are listening and are looking for ways to support them.
For those of you with smaller teams, you have the advantage of being able to keep each individual’s learning style and personality in mind.
- Are they motivated by money?
- Do they want other people to be taken care of?
- Are they looking for a promotion?
Know what motivates them and talk about it.
Avoid coming across as an oblivious boss. Be proactive in acknowledging there will be challenges. Your team will appreciate the transparency and thoughtfulness in your approach.
The plan! Go over your plan with the most detail oriented person on your team. Let a fresh pair of eyes look at it with you and point out the holes.
Remember, change is hard. Bringing in someone to look at the plan before rolling it out will help you avoid confusion.
To create change you need to provide three things:
- A vision of the goal
- Dissatisfaction with the current state
- A clear next step
To make the next step clear, be sure everyone can answer the question, “Who is doing what by when?”
Suggestions to Help CEOs Ensure Their Team Adopts the New Framework:
- Lead by example. CEOs should model the behavior they expect from their team and consistently use the new communication framework in their own communication.
- Provide incentives. Reward and recognize the team for their efforts in adopting the new framework.
- Foster a supportive environment. Encourage open communication and feedback, and provide support and resources to help the team adopt the new framework.
- Continuously evaluate and improve. Regularly assess the effectiveness of the new communication framework and make adjustments as needed to ensure its success.
Note: The timeline for implementation may vary based on the size of the team, the complexity of the new framework, and other factors. The goal should be to ensure that the new framework is adopted and integrated into the team’s daily work as quickly and effectively as possible.