Talking Turkey

Last week, most Americans prepared a beautiful, golden brown turkey for their Thanksgiving feast.  The word turkey surprisingly has a lot of dual meanings.  Of course it is known primarily as a main course, but taking home a turkey is considered a brag-worthy accomplishment and being one is often an insult.   

My favorite is the term “talk turkey”, which means to discuss something frankly and practically. I’ve always been known as being very frank.  Whether this is a good or bad trait depends on who you ask. When someone “talks turkey”, they get to the point and the term often refers to settling a topic of discussion.  The term’s meaning may vary- it can mean talking about something pleasant or discussing a serious matter.  Historical accounts suggest the phrase came from day-to-day bartering between colonists and Indians over wild turkeys.  Therefore, talking turkey has also been used in negotiations. 

Many employers are directing their attention to year-end activities such as assessing their businesses, their client/customer relationships and the performance of their staff.  Especially as this challenging year is coming to a close, it may be the best time to talk turkey.   

Business- Truthfully and honestly assess your financial ability to continue, do you close, did the pivot work or should you invest.  A business evaluation expert told me that if you finished 2020 revenues in parallel with 2019 revenues, it really means you experienced growth.  Pat yourself on the back.  Otherwise, now is a good time to plan alternatives or different courses of action. 

Clients/Customers-I place mine in three buckets.  Clients in my “A” bucket are a joy to support and they pay their bills.  We are forever grateful for their business.  Clients in my “B” bucket are difficult and challenging to support but they pay their bills on time.  They are worth the extra effort.  Clients in my “C” bucket are difficult and they don’t pay their invoices.  It’s time to talk turkey with these clients because if I don’t, I have no one to blame but myself. 

Employees- HR professionals are many times used for their ability to talk turkey to staff.  It’s true, especially with today’s remote workforce, managers need to assess performance based on outcomes and productivity.  We can’t measure staff by how many hours they are in their chairs because the chairs are empty.  It is important to talk turkey with the folks who are not productive or not meeting their deliverables.  However, managers need to discuss situational barriers honestly and have frank discussions with anyone struggling during this time.   If the employee is found to be goofing off, with plenty of documentation to support concerns, now is the time to talk turkey about the continuance of the role with the company. 

Most people think HR keeps a hood and sickle handy at all times, but it’s not only bad news we discuss with staff.  HR is also known for their ability to advocate for staff and remind managers on ways to show appreciation.  Showing employees appreciation for their work can be harder, but even more needed, during the pandemic.  Holiday events are not recommended and most likely will not be happening.  Safety concerns prevent the old models of celebration, so in some cases nothing is happening. And nothing is happening at exactly the time when lockdowns and social distancing have put people in depressed and high anxiety moods. More expressions of workplace appreciation are needed now, not less, and certainly doing nothing is a bad choice. 

Talking turkey with verbal appreciation has a huge benefit and doesn’t cost any money at all. Employees value highly a direct comment of appreciation, especially when specific examples are used.  To call out a team member with an example that demonstrates a desired behavior, like excellent customer service, not only resonates with staff but supports the culture’s value system.  Recognizing how everyone has risen above stress is invaluable feedback.  Even those not named feel good that a staff member or team effort was called out.   The American Red Cross calls them “mission moments” and members of the board feel pride in their investment of time and resources.  People crave recognition even more than money.  Employee engagement surveys prove this out constantly. 

This is a lot of talking turkey- between staff, customers and with yourself.  It may still be your main course, but using this time to talk frankly and honestly on many fronts can be just as satisfying.