493: What Your Employees REALLY Hear (and it’s not what you said)
Do you constantly feel like you have to tell your employees the same reminders and tasks over and over again? It may be because your employees are not really hearing what you’re saying. In episode 493, Dave Mastovich gives five ways to improve your internal communication so your employees are hearing what you’re saying.
It’s the No Bullshit Marketing Show. I’m Dave Mastovich, CEO and founder of MASSolutions, the world’s only No Bullshit Marketing consultants. What your employees really hear is what this episode will be about, because it’s not what you think. Think about this. Start off with a family. You’re in a family. If you’re a son, daughter, mom, dad, uncle, aunt, whatever, when things are talked about in a family, how quickly do people do exactly what they were asked to do? So I can say, as a dad, that I feel I have to tell my sons again and again and again and again, to do something, which I think is pretty normal as people are growing up. But I will tell you this, my family will tell you that they also have to tell me to do certain things again and again and again. Why is that? Why is that? It’s because of a multitude of things.
The first is how we listen. The second is how we process. The third is what was the channel? The fourth is what importance level did we place on it? So if that’s happening in a family, think about how it would happen in the workplace. Because when you’re in the workplace, there’s a lot going on, you’re under pressure. There’s a portion of people that see it as a means to an end, there’s another portion that see it as something that they get some intrinsic value from. But there’s another portion that see it as a super passionate thing. So those are all kinds of different mindsets. Plus, you’re not like a family where there’s the natural tie in of a family. These are people that are just getting to know each other. Sometimes they’ll like each other and they aren’t family members. You can dislike family members but they’re family. So you have all these reasons why employees hear something different than what you say.
The frustration comes from leaders and managers who wonder, ‘Why do I have to keep telling them this again and again and again?’ And they’re frustrated thinking, ‘I tell them that. I told them they need to fill out this form this way, they need to do this that way. They’ve got to be five minutes early for this meeting.’ Whatever. And they’re not realizing that it’s about repetition of messages. It’s about channels, having multichannels of telling a message. And it’s about leveraging the power of story, so that the message can phase an emotional response and is remembered. So that means you need to incorporate anecdotes and analogies to get people’s minds to let down their guard and relate to you and begin to hear what you’re saying.
So the first step for you as a leader or manager, when it comes to what your employees really hear, because it’s not what you think or want, the first is active listening by you. Active listening by the leader or manager so that you can lead by example. Because the first breakdown comes down to listening. The first breakdown is there’s a lot of passive listening going on while people are doing this thing that really doesn’t work, and it’s called multitasking. So people are not focusing on one thing with all their entirety. The original definition of multitasking was to be able to do multiple things, not necessarily at the same time, but we’ve conveyed it to, ‘Well, I need to do it at the same time. I need to be able to check my phone while I’m writing over here, while I’m walking down there, while doing that. But you really need to give your focus to one thing at a time, then jump to the second one and jump back to the one. And that’s multitasking, that’s good form. Multitasking at the same time is not, so when someone is multitasking at the same time, they’re passive listeners at best. Even when people are only focusing on one thing, they’re often passive listeners, because they’re often listening to think about what they’re going to say next.
What you have to do as a leader and manager is lead by example and begin to listen actively. You’re making eye contact, you’re reading, you’re listening for the nonverbal cues and their words, the inflection, their body language. You’re not preparing what you’re going to say next. You might even be taking notes if you want to do it on your notes app on the phone. Tell them that so they don’t think you’re texting. Or if you want to write in front of them on a piece of paper, ask, ‘Hey, is it okay if I take some notes?’ All of this contributes to listening actively. Repeating back what you think you heard is part of active listening. So step number one of learning what your employees really hear, because it’s not what you think, and then making it better is active listening.
Step number two is to ask clarifying questions that are open-ended. Ask clarifying questions that are open-ended. ‘It sounds like you’re saying that we’ve got a problem with communication across departments.’
‘Yes, yes. That’s what I’m saying.’
‘How do you think that’s impacting the situation?’
‘Well, we’re not able to get things done on time and on budget, because we’re waiting on them.’
When you ask open-ended, clarifying questions, that’s step number two of improving your communication with employees. Step number two of improving productivity and helping with retention of current employees.
Step number three ties to it’s got to be a multichannel approach, because we all consume content differently. So let’s say you love using Slack. Others like using Slack and some don’t like using Slack. Let’s say you don’t like using Zoom calls. While some people really like Zoom calls, others kind of like and others don’t. Let’s say you despise email. Well, some people love email, some people kind of like email, and some people despise email. So you have to have a multichannel approach, that’s step three to improve your employee communication, a multichannel approach, because we all consume content differently. We all have different preferences. We all have content that hits us and resonates with us more through a certain channel.
Number four ties to any type of reading, when you want someone to read whether it’s on Asana or Slack, or Glip, or any kind of online project management tool, or whether it’s in an email, whether it’s in a blog post, whether it’s in a presentation. People skim, they don’t read, for the most part. People skim, they don’t read, for the most part. A good percentage. So, me, I’m a reader, a voracious reader. I have to realize that not everyone is. In fact, most people aren’t. So I can’t write like I’m writing for myself, that’s not going to work. I’ve got to write in a manner that’s for the masses, which have multiple ways of consuming content. So I have to know that they’re going to skim. So I have to use whitespace, a lot of whitespace around things, I use bullets and numbers and keep it concise. So that’s step four.
And then step five is telling your story with anecdotes, and analogies. Anecdotes and analogies. I gave kind of both when I talked about how families, you have to repeat things again and again to my sons, and my sons would tell you that they have to repeat things to me. That’s using kind of like an anecdote and an analogy. But when you tell a story, a brief story that’s memorable, that helps to convey the point. So instead of saying I need to do task A by Friday, and you need to do X, Y, and Z when you get it done, pull that into an anecdote. ‘Do you remember when we talked about this and did this project a couple years ago?’
‘Do you remember how positive the impact was? The reason that impact happened was because we had a process, we had a system. We followed it, we communicated it to each other. We met our goals on time and on budget. I believe we can do that with this project too. But we have to have a system and a process. So we have to follow X and Y. And we have to achieve Z and Q. Can you commit to that with me?’
Now you’ve asked the question, ‘Can you commit to that with me?’ Of course, they’re gonna say yes, but they also heard you. But then a clarifying question. Remember, one of the other ones was asked open-ended clarifying questions. ‘Can you tell me what you think you heard?’ Wow. Now they’re going to explain back what they think they heard from you. You’re going to see how well they retained it or how well you said it, probably a combination of both. If they didn’t know it, ‘You’re pretty close, but also this.’
That’s how you improve your internal communication. That’s the way you work around what your employees really hear, because it’s not what you think or hope. The five ways. Number one, active listening by you to lead by example. Number two is to ask clarifying questions that are open-ended so you know where they are, what they’re picking up. Number three is a multichannel approach because we all consume content differently. So you have to use multiple channels to make sure you cover whichever one that person does out of your people you’re trying to reach on your team. Number four is when you have anything that needs to be written and read, you have to accept that people skim. So you write with bullet points, you write with numbered lists, you write with a lot of whitespace and you keep it concise. And number five is use anecdotes and analogies so you can leverage the power of storytelling by making an emotional impact that increases the retention of your message.
If you’d like to talk more about this leader-to-leader, manager-to-manager, reach out at Dave@MASSolutions.biz. I love helping other leaders to communicate better so their employees hear what they want them to hear.
Thanks for listening to another episode of the No Bullshit Marketing Show recorded here in MASSolutions studio in bold, beautiful, downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Remember, ask yourself, what’s the big idea? And build your story around the answer. It’s all about bold solutions. No BS.