At Intertech, we start setting guidelines for communication on a new employee’s first day. We hand out an Intertech Communications Guidelines document. At about a dozen pages in length, this document has a series of practical bullet points on communication. Below are just a few:
- “I don’t know” is okay, especially when teamed with “I’ll find out.” This is much safer than bluffing. It shows you are honest and you are not panicking in the face of a challenge. If you follow up with an answer quickly, it shows you are responsive.
- Listen. Seek first to understand then to be understood. When you sense someone’s upset or miscommunication has taken place, listen without going through what you plan on saying in your mind. If appropriate, to make sure you’ve understood the issue(s) restate what the person said.
- Act with character, be committed and divide and conquer. Adversity tests character and shows others how we are “wired” at our core. Our leadership and the customer will reward and remember behaving with character and being committed to solving problems. If you lose heart when adversity comes, your only strength will be weakness.
We’ve institutionalized communication through:
- A yearly “Town Hall.” At our Town Hall, employees discuss, in the absence of the leadership team, how we’re doing as a firm. After the Town Hall, an employee who facilitated the event anonymously shares the feedback.
- Huddles. Throughout the firm, we use huddles – stand up meeting where we’re talking about what’s happening – big updates, stuck items or problems, and track metrics. Huddle frequency is based on a person’s role in the firm. For example, at a leadership team level, we do daily huddles. For our software teams, we call out to them once a week to check in on project status (many of our teams use Agile and Scrum approaches to application development so they’re doing daily huddles).
- A weekly newsletter. This newsletter shares what’s happened over the past week and important upcoming events.
- A monthly all company meeting. In this meeting, we cover updates on strategic goals, sales, R&D, and our P&L.
- A social network. We use a product called Yammer for internal dialog throughout the day—employees post ideas, questions, and updates.
Along with the institutionalized communication, nothing beats just talking with people as you run into them in the hallway. A simple, “What’s the best thing that’s happened today?” can get a good conversation going.
Next: Leadership communication elements