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Our Perspective on Life, Leadership, and Engagement
- On the Engaging Leader podcast, we share communication and leadership principles, and tell stories that illustrate putting those principles into practice.
- The Workforce Health Engagement podcast explores strategies to improve your employees’ health and productivity — and to protect your bottom line.
No matter how the pandemic has affected your business, the dynamic of your workplace has undoubtedly changed in the past few months. Employees and leaders alike are adjusting to new ways of working (and managing family demands) while trying to maintain pre-COVID levels of engagement and productivity.
Each employee is faced with innumerable factors that influence their individual productivity and engagement. That’s why your company culture has never been more important. It’s the subtle drivers of social belonging, sense of purpose, and authentic connections to the organizational mission that will fuel your workforce forward during difficult times.
A healthy culture is a long game of multi-channel approaches, but during this time of decentralized and disconnected uncertainty, your organization might benefit from identifying and equipping the sources of internal influence.
+ Ambassadors: Employees below manager level who are formally designated as initiative representatives or behavioral role models.
+ Influencers: Employees who drive most informal conversations and who are sought for advice, knowledge, or support.
+ Advocates: Employees who voluntarily share opinions, facilitate initiatives, or take action because they feel passionate and committed.
Each year, open enrollment provides employers with a captive audience to promote benefits and educate the workforce about them. Given the circumstances created by COVID-19, we think your messages this year should be focused and simple. Consider these:
1. Here’s a review of the changes to your 2021 benefits – Some employers will likely need to make changes to employee contributions or benefits to keep the program affordable and valuable. There could be benefit reductions, increased costs, and new features to help manage costs. Be up front about what’s changing and why.
2. Our medical plan provides valuable coverage…even if you get COVID-19 – Reinforce how expenses related to treating the virus will be covered. You might reiterate time off and leave benefits in the context of the pandemic as well.
3. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a great benefit – Highlight the free, confidential services for managing heightened stress and uncertainty brought on by the world we are now living in. Include tips for parents, ideas on managing social isolation, and links to tools and remote resources for emotional support.
4. Telehealth gives you access to care for basic illnesses and injuries from the safety of your own home – Explain this alternative to face-to-face visits. Focus on your plan options, associated fees, and how to prepare for a virtual appointment. Be sure to note that these providers can prescribe medications, too.
5. Your Wellness is still important – Maintaining overall physical health is more important than ever. We want people to continue managing their chronic medical conditions with doctor check-ins, maintenance medications, and the same protocols they followed before the pandemic. For more tips on conducting open enrollment during a pandemic, we find this 9-minute read helpful: Planning 2021 Benefits Changes for the COVID-19 Era
Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory company, shared recent survey findings that may affect organizations’ HR strategies in the near future.
1. Remote working is here to stay. The Gartner poll says that 48 percent of employees are working remotely now, versus 30 percent before the pandemic. We expect many employers will continue this shift in the future, sustaining a larger remote workforce indefinitely.
2. Companies say they will begin to expand their relationships with contingent workers again. One of the headlines the virus created was huge unemployment. So initially, many employers reduced their contactor budgets. But Gartner’s analysis shows that 32 percent of companies are now rethinking that. Gig workers provide more staffing flexibility than full-time employees.
3. Essential is a new category of employee. What this means is that companies may be looking more at “what people do” and their skills than at their levels or position structures. Gartner says this will motivate HR to change employee and career development programs in the near future.
For a full list of “Nine Future of Work Trends Post-COVID-19,” read the article at Smarter With Gartner. A 12-minute read.
White space is more than just a white space…it’s an excellent communication tool to help you eliminate useless clutter in your message, your layout, or your conversation.
In visual communication, white space means any area that is free from text, images, or embellishments. Space directs your eye and emphasizes your visual point. It also gives your audience the freedom to process your message. White space could simply be the margin and line spacing of your text…or even the spacing between the letters. Space can be created with a photo or solid color background. It can also be created with a border or by removing a border. Read more from Canva about 8 ways to design with white space. A 10-minute read.
You also can create space in your message. Say. It. Succinctly. Every word you use should have a purpose and a meaning to your message. You don’t need big words or many words. Just say what you mean. This is true in written and spoken communication. However, it doesn’t mean you need to be abrupt or insensitive. It doesn’t mean you can’t tell a story to make your point. It just means to be thoughtful in your word choice. Write your message. Walk away for a bit. Then, read what you wrote and cut unnecessary words.
Conversation can have space, too…it’s called silence. As you share your message, tell your story, or facilitate your meeting, pause. Allow listeners to process what you have to say. It helps improve understanding and gives them a chance to respond. If you talk, talk, talk without a pause … at some point … your audience will get bored or distracted and check out.
Have you ever put time and effort into communicating something important, only to have people ignore or quickly forget about it? Does it drive you crazy to hear, “You never told us about that!”
Apply three or more of these tricks to each communication, and people will be more likely to notice, care, and take action.
· S: Simple – Make the core message clear. Try to answer the WIIFM question, “What’s in It for Me?”)
· U: Unexpected – Make people notice. Humor or surprising images often work well.
· C: Concrete – Make people understand. If the topic is abstract, be sure to provide concrete examples.
· C: Credible – Make people believe. Use a trustworthy spokesperson or provide compelling data and logic.
· E: Emotional – Make people care. Show how it affects real individuals, not just lofty principles or faceless groups.
· S: Stories – Make people act. A good story not only pulls people in, it can inspire the action you are asking people to take.
· S: Short – Make it easy to digest. Keep it “snack size,” or else people will feel overwhelmed and just skip over it.
This SUCCESS Model is adapted from the research and model in Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath.
Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. ~ Theodore Roosevelt
In challenging times like these, it’s even more important than usual that your workforce knows you are trustworthy and caring. Effective empathy is something you can develop through regular practice of these six skills:
• Curiosity: Take the time to be curious about what other people think. Try to fully understand their point of view.
• Authentic Listening: Most people don’t truly listen. Stop planning what you are going to say, and focus on really hearing their thoughts and feelings.
• Imagination: Think about what it would be like to walk in their shoes. What if you woke up one morning and found you had switched places in life with them?
• Vulnerability: Respectfully share your reactions and feelings about what the other person is saying to confirm your full understanding.
• Sensitivity to Others’ Emotions: Develop your “emotional radar” to pick up on what people are feeling by watching their body language and facial expressions. read more…
The human brain is drawn to information that is visually pleasing and easy to understand. If you’re not using images, headlines, and whitespace to convey complicated concepts, chances are people will tune it out.
More than 50% of the cortex, the surface of the brain, is devoted to processing visual information. Some 93% of human communication is non-verbal. People process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.
• Use photos to evoke emotion.
• Use whitespace to give the brain space to process the content.
• Use graphs and icons to break down complicated concepts.
• Use headlines and subheads so readers can skim the content for both the big picture and relevancy of a section.
Some leaders look at their people, shake their heads, and say, “They can’t get there from here.” Sometimes that’s true. But often the solution is creating a stronger culture, where employees are encouraged and coached to contribute their best thinking.
People are different, and these differences can add value. As a leader, you need to figure out the best ways to leverage the strengths of the human beings on your team.
In part 2 of this conversation with Karin Hurt about her newest book, Courageous Cultures, we talk about dealing with five additional types of people who present a specific challenge:
- Just-Tell-Me-What-to-Do-ers: They consistently just want to be told what to do.
- Just-Do-What-I-Sayers: They are often successful and just want people to line up behind them and do what they’re told.
- Let-Me-Do-My-Thing-ers: They are certain of their direction and methods.
- Silent Wounded: They don’t trust you—and with good reason. They’ve been burned by previous leaders.
- Silent Ponderous: They may be quiet introverts, but they have insights you desperately need.
Karin Hurt is the award-winning author of several books and an Inc. Top 100 leadership speaker. She provides leadership development programs for organizations around the world. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in customer service, sales, and human resources.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Book: Courageous Cultures
- Idea Inspiration Summit July 23
- Free executive strategy guide to creating a courageous culture
- Idea incubator guide (with pre-ordering)
- Book: Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results–Without Losing Your Soul
- Book: Overcoming An Imperfect Boss: A Practical Guide to Building a Better Relationship With Your Boss
- Online course: Results That Last: 7 Roles Every Manager Must Master
- Website: letsgrowleaders.com
- Twitter: @letsgrowleaders
- Facebook: /letsgrowleaders
- Engaging Leader 135: How to Lead Meetings That Get Results (and That People Want to Attend)
- Engaging Leader 054: Humility and Leadership: How to Teach Confident Humility
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The curve, openness, and spacing of a font are actual design elements and convey a look and feel. It’s important to choose a typeface that fits the design of the rest of your communication piece.
Readability is key for body text. Why pick a fancy font to be different if no one can read what you are saying? Typically, serif fonts score higher readability marks. A serif is a small line or “tail” at the end of the main strokes of a letter. Times Roman is an example of a serif font. Arial is an example of a sans-serif (no tail) font.
Each font family has many varieties—bold, italic, light, extra light, and more. But, everything does NOT have to be the same font. You can use one font for headlines and subheads and a completely different font family for body text. Caution: Too many fonts in the same piece can get busy.
If you operate in the design lane of workforce communication or marketing, you may want to know more about font innovations, changes, and trends. Here are nine of the most exciting typography trends of 2020 and how they are used in design.
“Psychological safety” may be a buzz phrase, but it’s a big deal. It means that members of a team feel comfortable in their team to be themselves, participate, share ideas, disagree, and even ask for help.
Organizational behavioral scientist Amy Edmondson of Harvard first introduced the concept and how it affects team success. She says the actions a leader takes can make or break the level of psychological safety among their team members.
• Be open; tell your people what’s going on.
• Be inclusive of everyone and encourage participation.
• Use positive language.
• Be respectful and appreciative.
• Give praise in front of others. Provide constructive feedback in private.
• Genuinely listen.
Need more specifics? Review this Harvard Business Review article. A 10-minute read.