We all have a communication style. No one style is right or wrong. What’s important is that you aren’t afraid to communicate to your associates just how you communicate.
Too many times, leaders don’t bother engaging or giving feedback at all. There is a practical reason for this. With so many day-to-day responsibilities, it’s hard to carve out the time to reach out or provide input.
Instead of guidance or praise, staff hears crickets.
Second, leaders way overthink this! The perception exists that feedback must be formalized, eloquent, perfect — because, well, the dreaded employee evaluation has all the “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed. The reality is, approaching your employee with something as tangible and genuine as, “The report you developed was spot-on” or “I thought your creative last week was brilliant” will go a long way.
Third, praising people in this way doesn’t come to naturally to all of us. Again, we’re all different. The mentors, bosses, coaches and teachers who’ve made a difference in my life didn’t all sound like a Hallmark card. But they did all recognize what I needed, and connected with me in their own authentic way.
Don’t let communication wither on the vine. You should give it the same type of attention you might give to professional development or other technical skills. If you’re unsure about your style, and realize that your message can be taken the “wrong way,” be frank and tell your employees just that. Let them know “____” is my style. Regardless of how you say something, or how often you say it, let your team know that the intent is the same: You are grateful to them, no matter how it may come across.
I had a physician client once explain to me that it was very challenging for him to engage with his staff about their performance. He understood the value of his feedback on their engagement. And, he genuinely did have a keen awareness of each of his team members’ performance and personality. However, he was incredibly busy, and had a relentless focus that didn’t necessarily facilitate much “banter”. By the time he was closing out his day, and allowed himself to reflect on the day, no one else was around to receive a message. For him, we developed a set of cues; on his smartphone, on his tablet computer, and in his workspace, to remind him to seize opportunities for quick, intentional conversations with his staff.
If you “set the table,” so to speak, you’ll be able to sit down and eat with your team in a harmonious and effective way – as opposed to leaving a very obvious empty chair.