When I worked at Xerox years ago, we all participated in a corporate-wide employee satisfaction survey.  Of course, one big element was rating your manager on how well he (or in my case, she) communicated with us.  Sure, they used questions like “How often does your manager keep you informed?” “How effectively does your manager give you feedback?” and my personal favorite, “How  well does your manager show recognition for your work?”  All basic communication elements.

The survey process, as you can well imagine, required that the manager being reviewed to develop an action plan for any area requiring improvement.  Well, my boss was quite creative in that respect.  She decided that we, the team that had given her low scores, should come up with the corrective action that she should do.

While we were against the idea, our manager prevailed and so we sat down and put our creative brains together.

Our biggest issue was not being “recognized” when we had done something well.  Our job entailed writing reports, executive letters and training manuals.  But we never knew if she thought they were good enough.   There was no positive feedback.

We knew her personality was not able to verbally say “good job” so we came up with a “smiley face” approach.  We bought her a set of rubber stamps and an ink pad and “required” her to post a smiley face on any documents worthy of her praise.

It worked!!

The joy of seeing a financial spreadsheet report or an internal control letter come back to us (even with all the edits she wanted) raised our morale and made our day!

Our Communication Needs Have Not Changed

co-workers_communicatingThings change … which is good, even great.  And how we communicate – what vehicles we use, the phrases we say, the frequency we engage ideas does morph over time.  But some things never change such as our need as human beings to be communicated with (and to be listened to).  And we all want and need that little jolt of a quick praise, a “good job” … to stay energized, creative and productive.

We have a yearning for effective communications … to be heard, to have our ideas considered, to be recognized when we come up with something great.

We want an environment that is open and honest, where people actively listen to us, and where we feel included.  We thrive in an environment of mutual respect.

Can You Say It in 140 Characters?

Twitter has set the bar for effective communications in the current climate.  It’s short, crisp, to the point.  It’s frequent and ubiquitous.  It’s open and shared with everyone.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all communication be a Tweet … or even look like one.  Far from it. But with the workplace becoming more and more multi-generational, effective communication requires paying attention to the idea that shorter is better.  Micro learning is becoming popular.  Texting instead of email or phone calls tends to make requests and statements briefer.

But be careful.  With this brevity, comes the absence of words, minimization of face to face encounters and the stark phrases which can, on one hand, increase productivity … or on the other, cause alienation.

How do we ensure our communications is positive?  It all comes down to remembering the humanity in the picture.  That’s why you often see a digital smiley face now … even in the corporate workplace. It’s a sign of friendliness, optimism and well-meaning.  It can even be used as a quick praise.

What can you do as leaders?  When someone sends you information, instead of quietly receiving it, respond with a “thumbs up”.  It will do wonders for morale. Being supportive never hurts, and always helps.  Remember we are all human first and foremost.  Look for opportunities to say, “I Like It”, “Crazy Good” or “Two Thumbs Up”.