3 Tips to Change the Game for Your Team
Chances are you’re on edge right now.
How do I know that? Well, the fact is that everyone is on edge right now. Don’t believe me?
Check out that the latest research from the American Psychological Association. 59% of all Americans across all generations feel that this is the lowest point in American history that they can remember.
Spend a few moments really absorbing this graphic. Americans believe that now is collectively worse than Pearl Harbor, the Vietnam War, the Oklahoma City Bombing and September 11.
One of the many results of this soup of simmering stress is that it has produced what I choose to call a Raging Outrage Culture. Simply put, when people are this stressed out and feeling largely negative about their collective futures - this Raging Outrage Culture pervasively puts people in such a defensive crouch that productive communication is extremely difficult and nearly impossible. Any form of outreach or communication will likely be received skeptically, and perceived as an attack which must be met with all the forces of defensiveness and cynicism that one’s flux capacitor can muster. It’s no coincidence that sarcasm seems to be the default setting of most people.
Of course, there are many reasons that our multi-generational society has created this Raging Outrage Culture. Rather that dwelling about why people feel this way, let’s focus on what we, as business leaders and quality communicators, can and should do about it.
Given that messaging and communication is a challenge in any macro environment - this current environment makes this skill that much more important to master. I offer the following as a quick 3-step guide when it comes to developing opportunities for quality internal communication.
First of all, recognize the water you’re swimming in. Seems basic, but here’s where you have to check your biases and get real about what’s around you. Is the water deep? shallow? cold? hot? familiar? unfamiliar? Is it even water? Use all of your senses and intuition to pick up on the vibes of your team or audience. You should also observe that your are not in an ‘us/them’ situation. This is a ‘we’re in this together’ situation.
So put out your antennae. What do you observe? Tension? Anxiety? Openness? Concern? Hope? Boredom? Excitement? In the Raging Outrage Culture, expect to experience more anxiety and defensiveness.
With these observations, you move on to the next steps.
Based upon what you’ve observed, here’s where leadership is key and can always be improved. You need to really (and I mean really) put yourself in your audience’s shoes and experience what they are experiencing before delivering your information.
“But wait - I’m the boss, it doesn’t matter how they feel. They just need to hear and do what I say.” Congratulations! You are no longer their leader, you’ve just become a gatekeeper of the Raging Outrage Culture. No one likes being told what to do and that is one of the first teaching tools of empathy.
Once you truly understand where people are coming from, they will be significantly more receptive to any message you might have to deliver. It’s hard-wired in humans. Don’t fight it. Learn and benefit from it. You can never go wrong by recalling this timeless quote by Maya Angelou:
“At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
In the Raging Outrage Culture, people just want to be heard without judgment and have a soft place to land. Sadly, there’s just not a lot of places for this to happen. Recognize this, and demonstrate that you’re a good listener.
Now that you’ve observed overall conditions and have put yourself in your audience’s shoes, you’re almost ready to take action.
Your next step is to decide:
When this message needs to be delivered - if you want a good result, timing is very important. Which day? What time of day? Do it now? Hold off indefinitely?
How this message needs to be delivered - method will determine how well you know your audience. Email? Face to Face? Audio or video recording? Social Media feed? Poster in the breakroom?
Who needs to deliver the message - maybe it’s not you. Maybe it is a peer, supervisor, cartoon character, or talking parrot. Go ahead and laugh, but this also proves how well you know your audience.
With the previous data collected and having answered these questions, you’re ready to roll, right?
Well, just about.
Just prior to executing the chosen delivery method, I always recommend becoming an audience of one. Make an audio or video recording of your message with your phone or send yourself the written version via email or text. Pretending you are the intended recipient, How did this message make you feel? Be honest. Tweak and repeat.
If you follow these steps, you’ve done quite a bit to lessen your team’s exposure to the Raging Outrage Culture and perhaps they will pay that forward those they can influence. Collectively dialing back the rage is a future that we can all thrive in.
Like leaders, great communicators are indeed born, but they can also be made. (with quality practice).