By: Candice Logan, BAA-ID, CID, Studio Manager/ Senior Designer at Hager Design International Inc.
My leadership training started when I was quite young. I worked for one of BCs most successful restaurant chains as a night leader. It was there, where I was taught the value of effective communication and how beneficial it was professionally and personally. Through extensive training, I began to put words in to action. It made such a positive change in my leadership as well as my personal life.
My key take-away was actions and words have impact. With impact there is a ripple effect. Think of how “what you do and how you speak” impacts the people around you, for better or worse. It’s your choice on how you want information to influence people.
Below are 4 key tools I have learned through training and experience that may create a better work environment.
POSITIVE IS AS POSITIVE DOES
It’s much easier to write or say negative words when discussing topics, like this doesn’t work or we can’t do this because……. It’s the first thing that comes to mind so it’s what we say.
Have you ever tried to turn the negative into a positive? I realised after looking back at a string of emails between myself and colleagues, how many no’s, don’ts, cant’s and won’t there were in the messages. With that epiphany, I gave it a month and challenged myself to change my tone in emails.
WOW was it ever difficult! But the results were super effective. Let me give you a scenario. As designers, we often get emails from clients, GCs or other consultants on projects requesting us to drop everything to accommodate unrealistic timelines. In lieu of accepting the request, working 16-hour days and breaking my team, I would have to say no, this doesn’t work for me, or I can’t. My actual response should be more like “My team and I are looking forward to this phase of the project, we are able to issue the construction drawings to you on January 1st, 2022. If this doesn’t work I am happy to discuss further.”
Changing your tone via emails is a lot easier because you have time to think while you write. Once it becomes a habit, you can have challenging discussions with team members where they leave the conversations feeling elevated rather than deflated. I’ve managed teams of 14+ for almost a decade and this effective type of communication yielded higher productivity, loyalty, and overall, a positive and fun work environment. I challenge you to try it!
EMAIL/CALL RESPONSE ETIQUETTE
There is nothing worse than needing answers to help you move forward on a project and having to wait 2-3days for a response. I’m sure this has happened to all of us at some point in our careers. As designers, we often need prompt answers to critical structural/or architectural questions prohibiting us from proceeding. At times, when the response is delayed, the whole drawing schedule can shift. Delays can also affect other projects’ timelines. It’s an unprofessional business practice and can lead to the failure of your projects and maybe even your company. Who would want to work with you if there is limited communication?
It is said that emails are not thoroughly read, and often significant information can be missed with only a quick glance. I took a professional email writing course and my key take-away was to avoid paragraphs. Writing in a point form style (without points) increases visibility. Single topic or key point sentences are much clearer and easier to read through and gets the point across.
SHARING IS CARING - BE FORTHCOMING AND TRANSPARENT
Being open and honest with your team, clients, colleagues, family members or people close to you, creates a level of trust. Trust is important in all relationships because without that, the building blocks to these relationships will crumble. Understandably, when it comes to business, there are certain items/topics that need to stay locked in the safe like financial statements, salaries, and personnel information. When it comes to business objectives/goals, feedback for personal development, upcoming projects, and the like, share it. Your team wants to know what the future of the business is going to look like. Get them excited to be a part of the growth. Be forthcoming with your team when you are reaching a projected target and ensure they are aware of the challenges along the way. More often than not, they will be supportive because they feel you need them to get you there, and it creates a united front.
Being honest with team feedback is a must. Perfection is impossible (with people) and expecting it is simply setting yourself up for failure. Most people understand that and expect feedback. Annual reviews are important, but I would recommend dealing with issues as they arise as it leads to the best results.
If you see a team member, friend, family member that has done something incorrectly or upset you, discuss it. If you are emotional at the time, give it a day or two and discuss it when you are ready. One of my mentors taught me that when emotion is high, intelligence is low. Be sure to address it or it will continue to happen. In a work environment this can lead to significant delays, in your personal life it can cause the wound to fester. Make sure you’re going into the discussion with a positive attitude and the outcome will be constructive. Use the positive is as positive does method of communication, and it will be a win-win for all parties.
Last but not least, listen. This is half of the equation to effective communication. Have you ever had a meaningful conversation with a wall? Highly unlikely, because there is only ONE person involved in discussion. Same results apply when somebody isn’t listening to you or vice versa.
Active listening is important because it leads to problem solving, understanding can help defuse negative situations. The easiest way to do this, is repeat what was said to you in your own words. If you are missing the point, your friend or colleague will kindly correct you. As someone who rarely sleeps, this is important as retention is limited, but when I reiterate the discussion in my own words, it sticks. And if it doesn’t, I write it down.
All of the above effective communication tools sound simple enough but putting them into practice is easier said than done. Take things one step at a time, learn to do it well and move on to the next. You will see the results and will notice a more positive work (or personal) environment and will contribute to have successful outcomes.
With over 15 years of experience, as a Senior Designer and Manager, Candice has the creativity and leadership skills that positively contribute daily to clients and team members of HDI. This blog is based on her many years of experience. Candice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org