Is anyone getting the message? How to send the right signals

When there are multi-million-dollar aircraft moving about on a carrier with hundreds of personnel circulating and carrying out myriad tasks, how do you get one pilot’s attention? Color and motion are key, and the exaggerated crew signals stand out in a noisy, busy background.

I’m constantly working with clients launching big initiatives in a sea of noise. Changes to systems and processes have become so commonplace that an announcement – even from the CEO – won’t break through. It will get lost in the constant barrage of emails, texts, and customer demands. Even if they see the note, attention spans are short: “People don’t read!”

How do we signal to the workforce that something new or different is happening? How do we attract their attention? Whether on an aircraft carrier or in a corporation, the same rules of psychology apply – we have to exaggerate to draw people in. It’s even tougher in a hybrid working world. To rise above, here are some of the ideas I’ve recently applied to get people’s attention.

  1. Launch a message board – virtual or physical. Provide every person with an attractive, stand-out nomination card and challenge employees to completely cover the board so there is no blank space left. I’m using this to drive a culture of gratitude, but it could also be used to solicit “What I like about the new ###.”
  2. Run a contest to gather hero stories about people exhibiting a desired new behavior: “Prizes for the top 5 stories about exceptional customer service!”
  3. Attribute a week or month to a specific theme and then run related events: “CRM Mastery Month! A tip each day/week.”
  4. Ask leaders to identify employees who have embraced a change particularly well – examples of success stories. Decorate their workspace and have a senior leader come by for a photo op with the person.
  5. Set up a ribbon-cutting event for an initiative, complete with giant scissors. Or a ‘breaking ground’ ceremony. Ask an employee – rather than a leader – to do the honors.
  6. Place a physical object that people will notice but don’t say anything about it. For example, a large framed picture of a customer, or a keyboard missing the Delete key.
  7. Change your virtual background to something that either subtly or dramatically communicates a message. Ask people what they think.

Masters of change are constantly creative. It’s a busy world. We have to work harder than ever to get people’s attention. Color, motion, and drama are the best ingredients for attraction.

Thoughtfully yours, 
Jeff Skipper

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