Anyone who runs a company must strive to keep morale high, productivity robust, and maintain enduring working relationships. An often overlooked way of achieving these goals is regular internal communication that make team members really feel part of your team.
What a difference a year can make.
Back in 1994, when Gordon Bethune assumed the post of CEO of Continental Airlines, the company was $200 million in the red and its stock was barely above water at $3 a share. One year later, Continental turned that loss into a $200 million profit; the next year profits doubled, and eventually, Continental stock took off, attracting a buyout offer from United Airlines for $22 a share.
How did Bethune turn a money-loser into a profitable and thriving enterprise in such a short period of time?
John Maxwell answers that question in his book, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork: Embrace Them and Empower Your Team. Maxwell said Bethune knew that to save Continental from being grounded, he would have to change the company’s culture. The key to that was heightening communication and positive interaction between management and the employees.
Bethune flung the doors to the company’s 20th floor executive suite wide open, getting rid of the fortress mentality and pervasive security that restricted employees’ entry. He gathered his workers in the parking lot, took the company’s rules manual that was stifling creativity and individuality, doused it with gasoline, and burned it.
Those were just two of the more dramatic measures he took to symbolize a new, open skies era. More importantly, he cleared the air, instituting a variety of internal communications systems to keep employees in the loop, on both good and bad news. This included employee bulletin boards, daily company news updates, a weekly voice mail message to every Continental employee, monthly and quarterly newsletters, and a toll free international hotline.
“A company that had been characterized by distrust and lack of cooperation had become a place where communication is pervasive,” writes Maxwell.
Great marketing begins at home. If you want your team to exude a positive message, you have to supply it to them. It is never safe to assume that your employees know what’s going on, or even know how to project your company’s goals and values as you see them.
Internal marketing is mandatory, whether you have a team of 10, a workforce of 10,000, or anything in between. The smaller the team, the easier it is for a manager to market to them face-to-face. Direct communication between a larger crew spread out over a wide geographic area is obviously impossible, but there are a wide array of tools one can employ, just as Gordon Bethune did.
Some of the best corporate communication tools I often recommend include the internal company newsletter, containing news and even commendations for team members who have done exceptional work, and a company calendar. Whatever tool you choose, use it as a proactive method of boosting team collaboration and morale.
“Communication is not the most important part of a manager’s job — it is the manager’s job,” says Dr. Kelly Mollica, a corporate consultant and professor at the University of Memphis, where she teaches the Executive MBA course in strategic human capital management.
Dr. Mollica lists five things that every employee wants to know in their organization:
- Where are we now?
- Where are we headed?
- Are we growing?
- What problems are we trying to address?
- What changes can we expect?
Dr. Mollica notes, “If you keep people in the dark, you will ensure they feel detached from the organization. On the other hand, sharing information with employees on a routine basis helps strengthen their commitment to the organization.”
This Week’s Bottom Line Action Step: Use internal communication regularly to boost increase collaboration and morale.