What Do Fishing, Important Updates, and Knowing Your Audience Have in Common?
My favorite word rhymes with illuminate. It has four syllables. It begins with a “c” and ends with an “e.” Give up? Okay, I’ll tell you. It’s communicate. If you’re in your first job, I encourage you to make this your favorite word too. Why? I’m glad you asked.
Let me start with this. Having lived through layoffs and downsizing in my years of corporate life, I’ve seen good performers let go, but I’ve never seen good communicators let go. Now I know that sounds dramatic but the point I’m making is that focusing on demonstrating you can effectively communicate with anyone and everyone around you will put you in elite status in your organization. Here are some examples of how I learned this to be true:
In one job, my manager and I met with the company’s CEO once per year to gain approval for a vendor renewal. About 90% of the conversation between my manager and the CEO was about fishing and 10% was about the renewal. After a few years in the working world, I figured out why.
Knowing the CEO would pre-read the renewal, my manager was always prepared to answer any questions about it, but if the CEO didn’t immediately ask, that meant the renewal would be approved so why not spend twenty-seven of the thirty minutes further developing their relationship by discussing their favorite fishing holes. My manager was a genius at taking this approach.
A mentor in another company taught me the importance of being first to the party with important updates no matter where I worked. Why? Because you can never overcommunicate to those who count on you for information. So when COVID-19 impacted the company and its employees, I constantly sent email updates to those responsible for overseeing field employees that provided answers to employee questions before they were asked.
Taking this approach afforded me the opportunity to not only further develop positive relationships with this group, but gain respect from my manager for making the time and effort to make others’ working lives easier though proactive communication.
A final example is when I miscommunicated and how I learned from it. And learning from our mistakes is often the best teacher.
I worked for a company that entered the hotel business, and I was responsible for sharing benefits enrollment information with the new employees. While I thought I was meeting the mark by performing in-person presentations in all of the languages the employees spoke, when it came time to enroll in benefits, enrollment was much lower than the company expected. Why?
After performing some research, I learned that I didn’t communicate to the new employees in a way they were comfortable with. I assumed that if I gave the enrollment instructions, which included going online to enroll in benefits, they would do so (the same instructions I gave everyone else in the company). My research told me these new hires preferred hands-on assistance with benefits enrollment. So I set up benefits enrollment kiosks and my staff and I sat down with the new employees and helped them enroll in benefits.
The lesson I learned that day is that communication is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and I’ve been conscientious of that ever since. All said, I encourage you to learn your job and perform it well but don’t underestimate the value of becoming a good communicator, whether it’s with your manager, your colleagues, your employees, and even your CEO.