May 1, 2014
The following is an edited excerpt from “Trust Is the Tiebreaker,” an e-book by former Counselors Academy Chair Davis Young, APR, Fellow PRSA.
It is intended for leaders and rising managers in midsize and small businesses as well as students. The book is available on Amazon.com and is reprinted with permission of the publisher, Smart Business.
In this chapter, Young outlines seven necessary steps to be successful in the workplace.
This gets to the issue of whether a leader wants to communicate or is just going through the motions, perhaps to meet some minimum disclosure standard.
When you want to communicate, try to speak or write like a real person because a real person is on the receiving end of what you have to say.
Do you like to be “talked at?” Of course not. And neither does anybody else. It’s far more effective to have a conversation than a presentation. Find ways to interact. Leading and managing businesses today is an opportunity to interact with stakeholders. And that’s the expectation.
How many times have we all seen managers stand behind podiums and just talk at employees? They never interact. It’s not a conversation. It’s a monologue.
At the end, they invariably ask, “Any questions?” Other than the ones they might plant in advance, there are none. The audience has already reached its verdict: “This manager doesn’t care about my issues. He just cares about his issues.”
That is known as an “information dump.” A manager unloads facts and figures in corporate speak to a group of employees with a long history of passive listening, having attended many such meetings in the past. The manager completely misses the opportunity to connect. And then he wonders why nobody asked any questions.
Contrast that with a company that has employee “huddles.” A huddle is an opportunity for any employee to speak up or ask for advice. That type of interaction is what encourages a young employee to say something like this in front of older and more experienced colleagues.
Sometimes good communication is about doing all the little things well. When your name is on something, you own it.
How many emails do you get every day that are full of errors? If you think the other party hit send without taking a second look, then you’re probably right. It’s amazing how much stream of consciousness communication, both to and from leaders, shows up on company computer screens.
Good communication is an important element of a leader’s personal brand. Sloppy stuff sends a strong message. It tells the troops they can get away with doing that, too. A culture that tolerates sloppiness is a crisis waiting to happen.
Think carefully about what you say about competitors — especially personal opinions that come off as negative, disrespectful comments.
Talk about what your organization does.
Engaging in negative conversation may end up saying more about your organization than it does about the target of your barbs.
Next time you’re asked about a competitor, you might consider this response: “A competitor like that inspires us to get better every day.”
Good competition is one thing. Engaging in an unnecessary war is quite another.
You may be a big fan of transparency, but there is legitimately confidential information in every organization. Aspects of financial results, marketing plans, proprietary product developments and sensitive personnel matters are all confidential — or should be.
In every organization, there are people who like to traffic in confidential information. It gives them a sense of power. But that behavior can cause serious damage.
A wise person coined this phrase: “Man’s greatest need is to edit someone else’s copy.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement.
If the goal is communication that helps accomplish business goals, then there are issues that need to be addressed in copy review:
What is a communications person expected to do with that type of guidance? Invariably, that leads to another off-target draft, wasted time and bad feelings.
Here’s some great advice from a former colleague: “What gets celebrated gets repeated.”
Think about that. Isn’t that true both in good times and in bad times? Progress — large or not so large — is important to share with stakeholders.
Success is all around you. That success is the source for specific examples that give meaning to your messages.
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