Effective communication is an important component in any industry, and certainly in child nutrition.
In the third installment of “The 4 C’s Behind the Business of Child Nutrition,” a four-part video series hosted by NextUp, school nutrition professionals discuss the importance of communicating effectively with a wide range of stakeholders. The series is moderated by Shannon Solomon. Solomon is a renowned, passionate leader in the K-12 education and restaurant industries, and the discussion highlights how school food service leaders communicate within their own school systems to support their core mission of feeding students. They also share advice with their peers in the hopes that they are able to experience the same success.
One of the greatest challenges in communicating with various stakeholder groups is knowing which methods they respond to best. School nutrition professionals need to communicate effectively both internally and also with external partners, parents, and students. Jessica Shelly, one of the panelists, says that she finds students will respond better to social media communications. Parents, on the other hand, prefer a letter in the mail.
To understand which communication channel works best, the panelists suggest that school nutrition professionals use multiple channels to get their message across, keeping track of which resonate the strongest with each audience, and tailoring future communications accordingly.
In order for people to be open to what you have to say, they first have to trust you. Establishing trust and building relationships is the best way to cultivate a culture of effective communication in your school system. The simplest gestures are the ones that have the greatest impact on nurturing relationships. Having a standing weekly meeting to hear your team members’ concerns, asking about their family life outside of work, and remembering to wish them a happy birthday are just a few of the ideas the panelists suggest.
If your team feels connected to you and trusts you, they are far more likely to buy into whatever message you are trying to get across.
More impactful than the words we say are the facial expressions, mannerisms and overall demeanor we possess as we say them. As a leader, you set the tone for communication with your team and with anyone else that you encounter. For example, having a smile on your face sets a positive tone for the day, and you don’t have to say a word.
Picking up on the nonverbal cues of others also helps leaders keep a pulse on the morale of their team. If your staff is stressed, they may not verbalize it, but you can pick up on that and offer your help and support.
Building relationships, catering to different communication styles, and being in tune with nonverbal cues isn’t easy. It’s important to give yourself grace and keep in mind that nurturing effective communication requires consistency over time.
For more resources on effective communication, check out LINQ’s resources, and watch this and previous episodes of Next Up’s 4 C’s Behind the Business of Child Nutrition here.
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