I just called to say…

In your best Stevie Wonder voice, sing with me…♫♪♪

I just called to say I love you

I just called to say how much I care

I just called to say I love you

And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

Now that song will be stuck in your head all day, smile😊!

I Just Called to Say I Love You is a song that expresses genuine love and devotion to a special someone without a special occasion or reason for the call. If you were to get a call like this, I’m sure it would make you smile. Imagine if we could get this same positive communication and reinforcement in the workplace. What would happen if someone called you to say you’ve done a great job or thank you, not necessarily for anything specific or because of a hidden agenda or motive, but because you bring value to the team? This kind of communication not only boosts morale but also enhances your sense of self-worth, making you feel great, right?

On the other hand, what would happen if someone called you to say you got it wrong again? Ugh. Why do you keep making those mistakes? Omg, you just don’t get it. And let’s take it a step further: How would you feel if that person didn’t call you to say those things but said them to other people about you? I imagine you would feel unappreciated, bullied, and hurt.

In either of these instances, leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone for communication, which ultimately contributes positively or negatively to the organization’s culture. Basically, what leaders allow is the culture because the behaviors and actions of its leaders influence the culture. Because communication is vital to the health of an organization, leaders must foster a positive communication culture. But how?

  • Model positive communication. Leaders who model positive communication set the expectations for employees. The “monkey see, monkey do” phenomenon occurs within organizations; if employees observe leaders communicating or acting in a particular manner, the employee might perceive that behavior as acceptable. Because of this, leaders must model communication and behaviors, seen and unseen, that are respectful and empathetic.
  • Effectively communicate. Effective communication holds an organization together because it shapes every interaction. When a leader communicates clearly, employees become one with the organization’s mission, purpose, and values and understand how their work contributes to its success.
  • Create psychological safety. When leaders create safe spaces for employees to have open dialogue and express their ideas and concerns, trust and collaboration are cultivated. Once this happens, employees will feel heard and understood and possibly perform better.

While these are only a few strategies leaders can use to foster a positive communication culture, leaders should make a concerted effort to develop strategies that work for their organization.

It’s crucial to understand that the absence of a positive communication culture can lead to severe, long-term consequences for the organization. Negative communication, often a silent killer, may not have an immediate impact but can be detrimental over time. The question is, why does this happen?

The result of negative communication results is a hostile work environment, which decreases morale, productivity, and innovation. In this type of culture, leaders allow things to go on that should not go on in the workplace, such as coworkers gossiping (this is a form of bullying, but leaders see it as light office talk), inconsistent accountability, and showing favoritism which compromises trust, just to name a few. And the consequences of negative communication lead to disengagement. Employees no longer have that drive to propel forward because they are deflated from the stresses that come with negative communication. Once stress is triggered, absenteeism and turnover occur. This paints a grim picture of the team dynamics, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, fostering a positive communication culture can breathe life into both employees and the organization. By taking proactive steps to enhance communication, leaders can create an environment where everyone feels valued and heard, leading to increased motivation and productivity. This is a vision worth striving for.

  • Self-reflect. In my article, Time of Reflection, I emphasize the importance of leaders having a mirror perspective instead of a window perspective. Mirrors reflect the truth and a positive communication culture starts with the leader. Leaders need to understand and manage their own emotions, triggers, strengths, and weaknesses to understand how to deal with the emotions and triggers of employees. When was the last time you took a good look in the mirror? If not lately, start today because self-reflection is the foundation of emotional intelligence, which makes you aware of your emotions and helps guide your thinking and behaviors.
  • Actively listen. Do you remember the phrase your parents or teachers used to tell you to listen with your ears and not your mouth? That applies to leadership as well. Active listening encourages you to focus on understanding what others are saying instead of immediately responding or interrupting. It also causes employees to want to share their ideas and feelings with you.
  • Provide constructive feedback. Instead of saying, “omg, you did it again”, call to say “I see a trend with this transaction”; I’d like to show you a better way. When providing feedback, leaders must be specific and solution-oriented instead of focusing on blame.
  • Encourage collaboration. When teams come together to achieve common goals, no mountain high enough or valley low enough will hinder their success. Leaders who cultivate a culture of teamwork and shared goals empower their teams to achieve remarkable outcomes. As the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work.
  • Choose the right communication channel. Selecting the right communication channel is crucial in cultivating the desired culture. In my article, Cultivating a Culture of Clear Expectations and Accountability, I emphasize that providing employees with diverse communication channels benefits everyone. Leaders should use the appropriate medium—email, face-to-face conversations, chat, or video meetings—for each interaction to ensure the message is effectively relayed. Remember not to associate a specific channel solely with disciplinary matters. Otherwise, employees might feel apprehensive whenever they receive a call or visit.

Now, let’s revisit Stevie Wonder’s song; I just called to say … what are you calling to say? Creating a positive work culture isn’t just about what you say; it is about creating an environment where everyone feels valued and heard, which leads to motivation.

Maya Angelou once remarked, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Thank you to that person who sent me a message a few weeks ago to say I was appreciated!

Joy Smith-Durant

Joy Smith-Durant

Dr. Joy Smith-Durant, DBA, serves as the Chief Lending Officer of Eagle Federal Credit Union. With over 20 years in the financial services industry, she has dedicated most of her ... Web: https://eaglefederal.org Details