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Listen to the Kid, and Listen!

September 24, 2009

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At what age do we begin to learn from our children?  My friend was babysitting her grandson while she was trying to work from home.  The phone rang, and she took the call.  The very smart three-year old tugged at her and said, “You need to be with me, not on the phone.” grandma

It reminded me of the saying “Be here now.”  Have you heard that one? My own daughter has reminded me of the importance of having a meaningful conversation, a dialogue where each party is truly listening, tuned in, and not focusing on what the response should be, and what they want to say.  How well do you listen?  Are you ready with your response as soon as you hear a few phrases from the speaker?

Listening skills are critical in any relationship, especially in business where using both your ears can help you learn what the mood of the workplace is currently.  The expression, Management by Walking Around (MBWA) was the cornerstone of Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett’s management style as they grew their company, HP.  Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard created a management style that formed the basis of HP‘s famously open corporate culture and influenced scores of other companies in the way they created trust in their organizations. MBWA is marked by personal involvement, good listening skills and the recognition that “everyone in an organization wants to do a good job.”[1]Ultimately, MBWA morphed into Management by Objective (MBO), which gives employees the flexibility to create business objectives for themselves that work towards the company’s goals.  MBO were another sign of trust in the HP workplace. 

Trust in the workplace translates into more productivity.  If you are in marketing, or perhaps a department head, before you begin any campaign, go back to the basics.  Start by collecting data; you need a baseline of opinions and attitudes. With your new knowledge you can assess the situation and create a more powerful program, a program with punch, and pizzazz that will resonate with your employees.  If you have carefully listened to your constituents, your campaign will achieve its goals and behaviors should change.

Some Quick Listening Tips

  • Be an active listener.  Be tuned in to the speaker, show interest
    • Maintain eye contact
    • Nod your head periodically
    • Concentrate on what the speaker is saying and not saying (“listening” to body language is also important)
  • Create a safe listening environment
    • Have an open door policy
    • Practice MBWA
    • Have an email address that you respond to personally and in a timely manner
    • Have town hall meetings with question cards—if time does not permit answering all at the meeting keep your promise to respond in the company newsletter, or the company intranet

And remember the old saying, “We were given two ears and one mouth because listening is twice as hard as speaking.”

Tell us about the good or bad listening environment where you work!


[1] http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/abouthp/histnfacts/timeline/hist_40s.html

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Eileen Weisman is a communication strategist, a good listener, a recycling expert, a dog lover, and a mother of the bride.  Contact The W Group to discuss opportunities for improving the listening environment within your company or organization.

Is Spinning Sinning?

May 6, 2009

We hear the word “spin” all the time in politics and the media. What reaction does it have on you? And what does it really mean?  Since you are reading this blog, the more important question is “are there spin doctors in the business world and if so, how does that affect the transparency issue?”

 

George Stephanopoulos, ABC Washington Bureau Chief, and former political advisor to Bill Clinton, once defined spin as “a hope dressed up as an observation.”  Its formal definition from the book, The ABCs of Strategic Communication, by M. Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA, is “a slang term used when public relations practitioners attempt to manipulate the news or events in the media through skillful strategic messages and other public relations techniques.”

 

If you are the person in your company that is responsible for messaging, whether it is internal or external, the integrity of the company is on the line every time you make a statement.  Being transparent implies openness, and honesty. Trust and truthfulness are two of the best marketing tools available and they are free! Use them to solidify existing relationships, to attract new donors or business partners, and to build loyalty with employees.

 

Your organization’s brand, your CEO, the board, and every co-worker depend on you to report truthfully. Manipulating news and events manipulates everyone and that is not a good business practice.  You may be challenged to create a “truth,” to color an event or situation in a way that is not 100% honest in its content.  And you could try to rationalize why you have chosen the words you have in an attempt to justify the public statement. In reality it may buy you time, but it will eventually buy you trouble.  There are no shortcuts to the truth. The public will find out and your trust factor will diminish quickly.[1]

 

So yes, I do believe that spinning is sinning when used to manipulate the public.  And if we feel as business professional that we are honest and ethical, then we need to be sure to take a stand on integrity, review our statements prior to their release, and ensure we are protecting our organization’s reputation in a most positive way.  As my mother always said, “If you lose your reputation, it is very hard to get it back.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Eileen Weisman is a communication strategist practicing internal marketing communications.  Her company, The W Group creates communication strategies that ensure employees, associates, and donors take notice and take action!


[1] 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer

Times are tough right now.  The economy is creating anxiety in everyone’s world.  People are worried about their job, their homes, and their family’s well-being.  They are thankful to have a job but may bring their worries with them every day to work.  They may obsess about life’s challenges and not be able to focus well.  Rumors are negative energy and non-productive.  You want to avoid rumors in your workplace.

 

If you have defined your companies core values I am certain trust and honesty are among them.  These values apply not only to your customer relationships but first and foremost with those who contribute to the daily success of your business.  Once trust has been tested, “business as usual” will not have the positive image you have enjoyed in the past. Confidence in you and your words will be questioned, and negative energy becomes a daily occurrence.

 

Honesty during tough times is not easy but being forthright in your internal communications within your organization can bring positive results.  Consider including your employees in identifying cost-cutting opportunities and give them as much information as possible in trying to find solutions to some difficult situations.  The concept of “inclusion versus exclusion” can yield dramatic results in engagement.

 

Today we call it “transparency.” But over 200 years ago, Benjamin Franklin stated, “Honesty is the best policy.”  And in 2009 it should still be the #1 core value of any organization.