Weeee! Up in the air, down to the ground. Then up and down. All the while giggling while our feet tap the group to propel us up once again! I have such fond memories of riding on a see-saw when my kids were young!
This fond memory came flooding back to me after I watched a very passionate Ted Talk by the late Rita Pierson called “Every Kid Needs a Champion.” In this powerfully short talk, Pierson hits home the importance of positive, open-minded communication between teacher and student. In an article written by Pierson for Huffington Post she wrote: “Positive, healthy relationships rely on clear communication. Without it, misunderstandings occur and intentions are misinterpreted.”
So what can a Manager learn from Pierson’s teachings to build employee morale? Let’s break down what I call the See-S.A.W. Principal. An employee must be able to see positive actions from his/her manager. A Manager can demonstrate affective and effective team building by focusing on how they Speak, Appear and Write. Let’s explore each.
What we say: In order to be understood, a manager must first assess the communication style of each of his/her employees. Some are visual learners, some prefer numbers, others readers and many a combination! A strong leader has the ability to assess the unique styles of the team and cater their message to each. For example, if you are the leader of a technology company, a manager has the ability to speak to his Engineers using technical jargon. However, when speaking to someone in the marketing department, it is typically necessary to explain a project or new technology in laymen’s terms. This way, the marketer can then turn this information into a brand building campaign to attract new clients.
One other point, make sure the team understands the mission of the company and specific department. Ambiguity leads to frustration and lack of productivity. A bit of transparency is key!
How we say it: How many times have you thought: “Can’t you just say it nicely?” Even more important than what we say is, how we say it, or the tone of the message. Do you sound condescending or frustrated? This tone causes others to feel very uneasy approaching their manager. Who wants to get barked at all of the time? To build morale, consider softening your tone. When you feel your temperature rising, take a deep breath before delivering your message. An empathetic tone enables the employee to feel listened to. In turn, the employee develops a greater respect for their manager and a greater willingness to be carrying out the mission of his/her team.
Dress the Part – Countless studies have demonstrated the benefits of “dressing-up” for the office. People who dress for success not only feel better but often get promoted more often than those who do not appear as confident. Depending on your industry, this does not always mean a suit. It means setting the tone that your team can follow. It means following your dress code. It means I care about the corporate brand of the company I work for.
Nonverbal Cues – You have no more than 7 seconds to make a great first impression. When an employee comes to you with a question, look at them eye-to-eye, put your technology down and give them your full attention. If you are unable to have a conversation at that moment, smile at them and say, “I want to hear what you have to say, can we put some time on the calendar to chat?
If you are in a meeting, be attentive. A smile and eye contact go a long way! Watch out for arm folding, slumping in your chair or tapping your pen. All actions that are so easily misconstrued.
Think Before You Write – We are a very fast-paced society. We often look for information in 140 characters or less! Consider this for email communication too! As in “how we say it,” the same concept applies to “how we write it.” A few tips:
Don’t send an angry email. If you need to have a difficult conversation, wait at least hours to cool down and collect your thoughts. In most cases, a phone call or face-to-face meeting is the best course of action.
Don’t be long-winded. If you have several points to deliver, use bullet points. Notice, I’ve written this article using bullet points. If you don’t have time to read this article, I at least want you to be able to understand my point.
Check your grammar – A team wants a leader that focuses on the details. That includes selecting the correct usage of the word “their or there” in a sentence!
Morale is like a see-saw. It’s very exciting when you are up in the air, like a cohesive team. Before you know it, if you do not exercise positive communication, your behind is hitting the ground. Ouch!