This week's focus is on communication. There has been a lot of 'communication' recently on a some very big and important national and international issues (in the US and the UK, anyway), and due to social media and the variety of ways to communicate, it can sometimes all be a bit overwhelming. So all the more reason that every piece of your communication with your staff, your customers and your suppliers should be clear, respectful and true to your values (see last week's post for more on that). From a quick email to a bid offer, to an annual report, the tone and the values embedded in how you communicate are just as important to your audience as the message itself. Your method of communication should be tailored to your audience, as should your message. And in what ways do you focus on listening? Let me know what you think about the importance of communication, and ways you've found that work well within your organisation.
Reinforce your company story
When I was part of the team growing a company from 6 people to 100, we wanted a personal way to thank our clients and overall community each year. We wanted it to coincide with sending Christmas or holiday cards, but we wanted ours to be distinctive and reflect our company values and personality - a way to reinforce our brand.
The first year when we had 10 of us all located in one office, we bought some nice looking cards that had nature images and that supported a similarly like-minded charity, addressed the envelopes for about 60 clients and friends, and put the cards with a bunch of different coloured pens around a big table and anyone who knew that client could write a little note and sign the cards.
After a couple of years doing that, we decided to make our own cards and looked around for suitable images. We considered an internal competition for designs as we had some fantastic artists on staff, but we decided that would get complicated, and might cause bad feelings for those not chosen. Not to mention we were fantastically busy and didn’t want to distract too much staff time. We ended up finding a non-profit group that supported children around the world learning about and creating images of the watersheds in their own backyards, which reflected exactly what we did: study and improve river basin health. It was a perfect match - we donated to the charity in return for the rights to use one of the beautiful images created by the children each year.
We continued to set up a table with all the envelopes addressed and a bevy of colourful pens, and all staff were encouraged to write personal notes to the recipients. Our clients loved the personal notes, and many said they kept the cards up on their desks for months as the artwork was so gorgeous and thematic of their work.
But as the size of the company grew, it got more complicated! We grew in size (up to 100 staff), we grew to five offices in three states, plus several satellite home offices. We also grew our clients and friends who deserved cards, well into the several hundreds. The logistics became pretty complicated, but our clients had come to look forward to these personalised cards, and it happened to coincide with the industry trend towards electronic very impersonal ‘ecards’ sent en masse by our competitors in the name of saving trees and energy. However, we continued our old-fashioned practice because we believed the very personal and handmade quality of our cards spoke to the careful and very personalised service our clients expected from us.
And it worked. Our cards were found on many desks, and most of our clients mentioned their delight in the personalised notes, and how much they looked forward to seeing what picture we would select each year. They became such a statement of our company that when we moved to bigger offices and were selecting artwork for our colourful walls, we had a series of our favourite images from the cards made into wall-sized posters and framed for the hallways. Staff and visiting clients alike were delighted to recognise their favourites on our walls.
So when thinking about how you communicate both internally and externally, remember that every connection you make with your clients will make an impact. Don't miss the chance to use that connection to reinforce your ‘brand’ values: what you stand for and how you want your clients and staff to think about you.
A few articles on Communication
Behaviour is your secret brand strategy
Great article from one of local branding agencies: It is NOT your logo image, but rather how you behave throughout your organisation that is the biggest factor for determining how customers view your brand.
'How might we...' use language to shape creativity
As the authors say in the linked article: "What we say-- and how we say it--can deeply affect a company's culture. To change attitudes and behaviours, it helps to first change the vernacular.
What makes an employee highly engaged?
Turns out, most of the factors that describe a highly engaged employee have to do with strong communication of the values that are proven* to create satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Here is a graphic that shows the characteristics of highly engaged employees versus those who are not:
* Daniel Pink, Drive. Here is a short video describing the concepts in Drive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc
Fun Friday Workplaces
It's Fun Friday workplaces! Following this week's communication theme, I like the use of a clever speech bubble whiteboard in this small meeting room. There are are other great features to make your meeting room a little bit more creative and unusual: the larger-than-life sized desk lamp is reminiscent of the bouncing Pixar icon, and the bright yellow colours spark up an otherwise calming colour scheme. Plus, using comfy stools rather than chairs, hopefully your meeting won't go on for too long! (photo found on officesnapshots.com)