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Communication Lessons From A Maddening Year

As a professional communicator, I've learned a lot during this quarantined time. I think we can all relate. Life lessons have been full of hard moments and frustrating instances. Then again, when we've least expected it, the good and bright and merry have peaked through and reminded us that there's hope to cling to and to give away.

Nine months after the pandemic started, I find myself tucked into my home office — something that’s become a sought-after mainstay since Covid-19 entered the scene and my company went home to stay safe from it all. I remember those early conversations when planning for “what might be” or “maybe even could be” took up the time I didn’t think I’d ultimately have to give away.

But then it all became real-life. And, well, here we are in the middle of the winter season working from home during a Covid-19 peak that was worse than the initial onset in October.

As a professional communicator, I’ve learned a lot during this quarantined time. I think we can all relate. Life lessons have been full of hard moments and frustrating instances. Then again, when we’ve least expected it, the good and bright and merry have peaked through and reminded us that there’s hope to cling to and to give away.

In fact, the three personal principles of transparency, support and celebration that have also become communication mainstays. Though this season may seem harsh, maintaining these principles will help us be optimistic even when life is maddening.

We often mistake undesirable results as an excuse to spin information to our benefit. The outcome of miscommunicated information can have negative, long-lasting effects. Results are results. It seems simple enough but can easily come into question when reality is less than favorable.

I spend a great deal of time iterating on various versions of communications in collaboration with other team members. The time invested is worth the outcome when the identified audience receives well-thought-out information in a kind way. It matters to me that I walk away knowing I’ve contributed to an honest culture that doesn’t hide from the hard but instead works to help others embrace what may be challenging.

Consider this: Use the new year as a catapult for communications that are an open platform to recognize the difficulty we’ve faced both collectively and individually in 2020 and 2021. Calling attention to the less than pleasant feelings those around you may be experiencing will establish mutual understanding and create a shared environment to grieve what needs to be grieved. This will open the door to providing further support.

Support: The most important communication is often unspoken.

Relevance, in our industry, means staying aware, ahead and prepared. Often, we forget that “hurry up and wait” is an important part of being an authentic communicator. It’s not necessarily about who says it first, especially if they don’t say it well.

In difficult times, it’s imperative that we humanize our communications to be about more than situational facts. Encompassing emotion and showing empathy can take what’s hard and make it hopeful. This is impossible if we don’t leave space for silence.

Listening creates opportunities for us to make the work we do responsive to the people we serve. It’s about more than reaction. It’s about understanding. A shared pandemic has made the world feel smaller. It’s bridged the gaps between our differences and made life a little more relatable regardless of what makes us unique.

Consider this: We should look for ways to creatively tell the stories of our differences. Unique spins on our companies, teams and customer affairs help remove the typical and offer support for what’s become normal. Moving into a new year, this approach will serve us well as we remain mindful that Covid-19 isn’t just an event. It’s a lifestyle change — one that also deserves changing communication methods that best support our audiences’ needs.

Celebration: Applaud the ones around you all the time, anywhere, and in any way you can.

While we each may approach celebration in unique ways, research shows us that appreciated team members excel in the workplace and stay longer, which enhances company culture in general.

Gallup provides this feedback on their website: “Workplace recognition motivates, provides a sense of accomplishment and makes employees feel valued for their work. Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.”

It’s true that there are multiple factors that influence overall engagement; however, celebratory communications are a vehicle to move the dial on company perspective. Never underestimate the power of words — to empower, encourage and engage.

Consider this: Our company took a unique perspective on our final companywide simulcast of 2020. The full 30 minutes were dedicated to recognizing every single team member (quite a task since our roster includes over 800). Time was tight, but we managed to show our gratitude for everyone who works with us. Though this approach may not work for every organization, intentionally integrating celebration into the communications we create establishes a culture of appreciation and one where others applaud each other all the time.

As we move further into 2021, intentionally craft these three values into your comm plans and strategies: transparency, support and celebration. They’ve changed my personal life, and I’ve watched them do the same professionally, too.

After all, we all need a little silver lining, even when life is maddening.

By Melody Gambino, Forbes Councils Member, VP of Marketing of ConstructConnect, the leader in pre-construction SaaS, driving growth, market share and employee brand. First published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2021/01/27/communication-lessons-from-a-maddening-year/?sh=57b634653cbd January 27, 2021