Sometimes, I feel awkward whenever I speak in front of a group. I don’t feel awkward because I am standing in front of a large crowd; I’ve been talking in front of groups for a very long time. It’s not my “C” tendencies overanalyzing why the room is staring at me, and I know it’s probably not my incredibly good looks that lock their eyes in my direction. It’s that nagging voice inside my head that says, “They are not getting it.” It’s the deep stares, the deer-in-the-headlights looks and the person typing or writing everything I am saying — are they really understanding what I am saying? Am I putting it all into the right context for my audience? It is a haunting feeling to think that I am not communicating my point efficiently.
Most speakers are not communicating! Communication is the exchange of thoughts and ideas between two or more people. The awkwardness between me and my audience is not from what I am saying, but from what they are not saying. In too many lecture situations, the speaker is so caught up with their PowerPoint and notes that they tend to forget there are people out there with supporting or conflicting ideas. And yes, you do need supporting and conflicting ideas. The audience is used to sitting quietly in chairs, staring at a presenter while secretly checking their social media feed. They are conditioned to not talk, take notes and applaud at the end. They may be energized, but a few days later all they remember was the lunch and jokes. They didn’t really learn anything; they were just talked to about something the speaker felt was important.
The importance of communicating with your team is vital to your leadership. It is your team, after all, who will fill your wallet. Communication is not talking to your directs and peers through thought out emails, bulletins and newsletters. That’s called dictation. Communication is the exchange of thoughts and ideas between two or more people, which means, you must provide an avenue for them to be heard. Not only do you need to hear them, but their peers and directs need to hear them, as well. You need to be able to know what goes on in your office, as well as what goes on at the floor level.
At the end of every meeting I have held with any crew that I served, there was a moment called rounds. This was due to a fantastic man who loved to drive up your ticket average and fill your team with bitterness by complaining all day about the little things. He would sit in each monthly meeting silently listening — almost as if he were gathering information to complain about. Wouldn’t you know it, the moment the meeting ended, the whining began. In came the Watson clause, every member must speak and voice their opinion on something before the meeting is over. Once this was enacted, Watson and the rest of the crew had a platform they never had before. They were no longer employees listening to their boss, but they were a team collaborating with their leader.
What Did They Say?
Just as important as communicating with your crew is communicating with your customers. Throughout the year, you saturate your customers’ thoughts with great images of your shop, impressive mailers with your crew in action (clean and happy), and you may even have a radio or television spot. But what do they say to you? It’s not enough to judge your success by getting one more person than last month. You already know you’re the best in town, but it only takes someone better to come along and steal your customers — unless you give your customers a platform.
Surveys are a great way to encourage your customers to voice their opinions about your services. You can have a great ticket average, but if your tech is hard-selling the customer, they won’t come back. Even worse, you won’t even know it for about six months. So, for the next six months, it’s business as usual, and then the decline comes. Your customers found someone who won’t say, “You need a new air filter” and throw the old one in the trash without giving them the opportunity to ask about the price. You want this kind of feedback from customers before they leave you and jump on Facebook to tell everyone.
Reacting to your customers in a positive way will help your reputation and, hopefully, retain them. If you can, call on your customers after each visit to ensure everything went to their standards. Finally, you need to communicate these situations to your team. In meetings, review the surveys (both good and bad), praise the team for the good ones and ask them how they got such a good survey. If the survey is bad, ask them how they got the bad one. Their experience will help them, their peers, you and your future customers.
Build Your Communication Culture
In my office rests a picture of the tower of Babel. Religious or not, it speaks wonders to what a group can do if they can communicate. I will not go into detail about it — read up on Genesis or talk to the great Kevin Davis. Every new member of my team received the same speech about communication. The problem was, I failed to provide an environment that gave them open speech.
The training office was meant to be a sanctuary to de-stress from their work. You all should know by now that I had the greatest team. Not only did they know procedures perfectly, but they also knew management duties, building courses and excel templates, public speaking, plus they could chase down a network issue and were completely mobile. This was a requirement of anyone who wanted to be called a trainer. However, in the middle of all this was the glue that held things together. The office assistant was there to organize training materials, employee logs and help the team in whatever way possible. However, the office assistant I had deterred the team from free speech, offense was proclaimed daily and a little notebook was kept of the team’s imperfections (my section must have been huge). The office was not a sanctuary, but a place to tip-toe around. It had to change.
In walked Deserae Pittari, as the new office assistant with the best skills needed for the job. It wasn’t computers or organization. Instead, it was listening and contributing. Before long, Desi fixed the gleaming issue with our office. She quickly created relationships with the leaders of the team and inserted herself into the same role. She opened up to the field trainers and the managers to listen to their issues, solve the problems or just call them and say “hey hun!” While she did many great things in her position and the company, her mastery of identifying with each person and being able to allow them to have a platform was something many of us envied. No matter what new projects she was assigned, I made sure she stayed involved with the entire team’s wellbeing. She was the missing piece of the team, and she never truly understood her importance. I still try to this day to explain it to her.
Find a way to institute a higher level of communication to the team through conversations, meetings and one-on-ones. Understand your team, directs and peers on a “Desi” level. If you don’t have a survey or social media platform, there is a fantastic group of vendors out there to help — pick up the phone and call them. In the next chapter, we will be talking about coaching. Start thinking about how you react when you see something good or bad in the shop. Decide that you can really make a difference in your team, and then read my next few articles. Or, think your people skills are top-notch and watch your people go to the competitors and succeed. It’s your wallet, after all. Until then, be great!