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Steffie Corcoran, Editor
Photo by JOHN JERNIGAN
The Care and Feeding of Colleagues
By Steffie Corcoran
July 9, 2012
Last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s operative slogan was “Team Is One.” I liked it from the start. It efficiently conveyed the essence of an entire professional sports organization in a collective noun, a linking verb, and a predicate nominative. Not too shabby.
The phrase resonates with me because of what we’ve been working to establish at Oklahoma Today: a collaborative professional literary and media entity whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In fact, we have our own three-word catchphrase we use to describe our philosophy, “Love of Home.” It works across the board, whether applied to staff, freelancers, advertisers, and most importantly, readers.
Truth is, it’s a lot easier to say you work on a team than it is to be a team. Here’s a brief guide on how to best work with yours.
FEED THEM: There’s something primal and loving about providing food for others. We understand this at Oklahoma Today, which is why our publisher, Joan Henderson, has been bringing her signature scones to our meetings and gatherings for nearly 18 years. Joan’s example has trickled down. Any staff member who brings a baked good or sweet or savory treat is appreciated and remembered. Triple bonus points if it’s homemade.
RESPOND TO THEM: An interdependent unit is just that, which means if one staff member calls, emails, or texts another, professional courtesy necessitates a timely and thorough response. Yes, we’re all busy juggling the various media, technologies, stresses, and responsibilities that come with a twenty-first-century workplace, but it seems to me that if the very tools that are supposed to make communication easier and more immediate mean we’re rarely completing the triangle of sender, message, and receiver, there’s a problem.
COMMUNICATE WITH THEM: It’s scary how easy it is to avoid meaningful communication in the workplace. The operative word here is “meaningful.” Nothing is as meaningless as generic praise, and nothing is as motivating and inspiring as positive feedback that’s specific, unexpected, and freely given. When the required message is one of constructive criticism, many of us head for cover. But that’s when it’s most critical to do a little throat-clearing and get on with it. My guess is that most of us avoid saying the hard thing out of a well-intended but misguided desire not to hurt a colleague’s feelings or because we’re wired to avoid confrontation (or both). If you want everyone on your staff to be successful—and who doesn’t?—it’s imperative to address not only triumphs but areas that need improvement and to do so directly, specifically, respectfully, and with a spirit of kindness. Incidentally, I’m an avoider by nature, and when I became editor of Oklahoma Today just over a year ago, I made a pledge to myself that every time I caught myself brushing off my own little tricks that precede going along to get along, I would instead suck it up and deal. In the immortal words of Nike, I just did it, and it’s made a positive difference that continues to pay dividends in interactions with colleagues, freelancers, and readers.
RESPECT THEM: Cupcakes, returned emails, and proactive communication are great assets in any workplace. Above all else, taking care of business means respecting the people we work with (and, indeed, everyone with whom we’re in relationship—but I’ll leave that for a future blog). But what does respect mean? Maybe it’s easier to describe what it doesn’t mean: demeaning, abusing, insulting, ignoring (see RESPOND TO THEM, above) or diminishing that person. Basically, respect means to hold in high regard; to value.
In a perfect business world, respect is an active process. Bringing banana nut bread to work, congratulating a colleague for landing a new advertising account or having a great idea, or soliciting opinions on content are wonderful ways to demonstrate collegial regard.
There are many more.