We recently had all of our marketing department complete Gallup’s CliftonStrengths survey, and shared the results with each other. It focuses on the importance of improving our strengths, not trying to eliminate our weaknesses. It’s also a wonderful exercise to work towards understanding the needs of our team at work.
Every internal communicator wants to create a healthy, efficient work environment for their team. This is not a throw-away goal, in fact, some would argue that is it the goal. It is not something to get done quickly and may take some time. Rather, it is one of the most important goals that a leader can work toward. When employees are receiving the care and respect that they need in the workplace, everything else will run much smoother. Thus, as a leader, it is up to you to understand your employees’ needs – or, in other words, the needs of your internal audience.
Long before your company ever gets an audience of customers, you will face your internal audience first: your employees, managers, and/or coworkers. Communication within the office team is extremely important. The goal is to understand how to best use the skills and talents that their employees bring to the table. And even more importantly, they can understand how to help each employee be comfortable, respected, and effective in the workplace.
Here are five steps to help you understand your internal audience’s needs
1. Ask thoughtful, specific questions.
The first step in a big project is always the hardest. Getting started may very well be the most difficult part about it. But, once you have gotten the ball rolling, that first hurdle is behind you. Remember that your employees may not volunteer information to help you out. You will have to take the initiative as you seek to better understand your internal audience.
The goal is to get your employees talking, and in order to do that, you must venture a few well-thought-out questions. This gives your employees a starting point, which will make it easier for them to open up about what they really think. Ask your employees how they think things are going. Do they think their skills are being used and appreciated? Do they think they are working together well? What do they think could be improved? These are the kind of questions that will spark healthy conversations and help you understand your internal audience better.
2. Give your internal audience the floor.
Once you have asked your questions, make sure to give your audience some room to breathe. Remember, the goal is to get your internal audience talking about their needs, desires, goals, and dreams, and they may feel uncomfortable curating that information with you around. When they are ready to share, it is up to you to listen with wide-open ears and no opinions. Encourage them to take as much time as they need to think through the questions and reply thoughtfully and truthfully. When they are ready to share, take notes and ask them to apply their thoughts to specific situations so that you can understand them better.
3. Be a humble leader.
To be a good leader, you need to be approachable and personable. It will be challenging to understand your employees’ needs if they feel unable to share their true feelings with you. As well, if you are open toward your internal audience, they will likely also be open toward you. Give your employees a chance to talk about their personal lives, and talk about your own personal life with your employees. Let them know you are a real person, with real feelings, frustrations, goals, and skills. You make mistakes, just like the rest of them. (Yet you are also ready to pick yourself up after a failure and keep on going!) Be enthusiastic and goal-oriented, but never be harsh or purposefully intimidating. Winning your employees confidence with kindness and humility will let them see this kind of attitude in you, and they will be far more likely to approach you with honesty.
4. Make use of any tools available to you.
To be completely honest, being a leader can be exhausting. As you try to understand what your employees want and need from you, you might begin to feel signs of burnout. You might also be so eager to do a good job that you are trying to do everything yourself. No wonder you are tired! Thankfully, you can avoid exhaustion and burnout by making use of tools that can make your job easier.
For example, you can use intranet software that will expedite internal communications immensely! The more communication that is happening, the better you will be able to understand the needs of your team. And if you can do that without going to any more trouble than you have to, go for it! That way, you can expend your energy on solving the problems that your employees bring up and making the workplace a great place to be.
5. Remember: you are in this for the long haul.
Understanding your internal audience is a marathon, not a sprint. And in the end, slow and steady wins the race. This is not something that can be accomplished in a short period of time, so try not to take shortcuts or speed up the process somehow. Remember that it is just that – a process. Over time you will begin to understand your employees as a team once you begin to understand them individually. Figuring out each one’s own, unique personality and contribution to the company, and then figuring out how these unique people work together. As you embrace this learning process, you will be better able to help your team work together in the most efficient and beneficial way for all. Your goal is to help each team member use his or her skills to the best of her ability. Only when you dig deep enough do you strike the gold!
I have good news for you. You are not on your own! IC Thrive is here to help you every step of the way. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact us and let your journey toward a happy, thriving workplace begin!