“A Christmas Story” is, in my opinion, one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. Sure, it’s campy. Yeah, it’s even a little over the top—but that’s a huge part of the charm, right? It’s told from the perspective of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker, and I love how well it captures the far-more-interesting way a boy experiences things. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie (or who haven’t seen it in a while), allow me to recap:
Ralphie wants one thing and one thing only this Christmas: a Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock, and “this thing which tells time.” Throughout the movie, Ralphie tries every avenue of communication available to him to spread the word: he asks his mother outright, writes an essay about it in class, and even tells Jolly ol’ Saint Nick himself. The response is unanimous: “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Though I won’t spoil the movie by telling you how things end, suffice to say Ralphie has a difficult—and comical—time getting through to anyone. I thought this was a perfect example of the importance of leveraging communication channels effectively. Otherwise, your message will fall on deaf ears.
The modern organization has changed – it is decentralized and increasingly, virtual. The HP Way of “managing by walking around” is becoming less practical for leaders as more people are working outside of the confines of a traditional work environment. Open door policies are becoming more metaphorical than factual. Employees are not seeking to enter a physical office to connect with you—they want to reach you via some communications channels you may be less than familiar with. Fortunately, even the busiest leaders can breathe some life into their open door policies by following a few rules of thumb.
The rules are a bit different when you’re connecting with employees online, and you can “shoot your eye out” if you’re not careful. However, you may be surprised to find these new channels are a great (and oftentimes convenient) way to strengthen your employee relations. Novice and adepts users alike should keep these things in mind when reaching out:
- Don’t be so serious. Informal check-ins are more comfortable for employees, and casual hello-how-are-yous offer a great opportunity for leaders to engage employees. A lot of companies use chat clients for quick communications. Though some of us are more familiar with this media, others struggle to communicate effectively via instant messengers. Not to fear. If you’re not comfortable with the LOLs, OMGs, and TTYLs, don’t use them. Just keep things short and respond quickly. The point here is that you’re making yourself both available and approachable.
- Choose your words carefully. Regardless of how you intend a message, interpretation can vary – especially with emails and memos. It can be difficult to find words to convey exactly what you mean, and communication is all the more challenging when you are not sitting across the table from the other person. And when it comes to electronic communications, choosing the right medium is often just as important as what you’re trying to say. If you find yourself burning bridges via email, tools like ToneCheck can be really useful.
- Get your people on board. The more people you have using the same tool to communicate, the easier it is to connect with them – and the greater potential to connect with others. So it is critical that you rally your team to a common communications and collaboration platform, and make sure they use it. Over time, the value of everyone working together on one system will make it a critical part of their routine.
Interaction with a good boss is critical to realizing your full potential as an employee. With the right tools, keeping tabs on your people and your organization can become a part of your regular workflow. At the end of the day, though, you know what works best for you – and for your organization. Feel free to dabble in a few different products until you find the right one, keeping in mind that many tools are free at their most basic level.
This post was written by Kyle Lagunas
Kyle is the HR Analyst at Software Advice — a company that reviews web-based HR software. He blogs about trends, technology, and best practices in human resources and recruiting. You can find him every Wednesday on #TChat at 6:00p CST, where he brings his perspective to conversations at the intersection of talent and culture.