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Missing in action.  Yes, the missing part refers to the fact I haven‘t written a blog entry in a few weeks; I apologize. The action in the phrase describes how busy I have been ensuring that the wedding plans that have been in process for the past six month crystallized into the vision we all had for a most perfect wedding.  I could have started with “I have been on vacation” but vacation may not be the most accurate word to define my disappearance from the blogosphere.

Our daughter was married on August 9 and it was a magical moment in our lives.  We were our own wedding planners and using my decades of project management skills, I was able to keep everyone and everything on track.  With a 16 tab Excel spreadsheet by the end of the six months, we tracked our budget, guests, flights, vendors, and just about anything else you can imagine.

As always, I read a lot before diving into this new and very personal project of planning our daughter’s wedding. But as I reflect back on the past six months I think the one thing that isn’t discussed enough is the need for open, and honest communication during the wedding planning process; openness between the bride and groom, the couple and their families (if they are involved in the planning), and the planners with the vendors. How could this be overlooked or under emphasized in all the bridal magazines, and online sites?  Goodness knows, the importance of open and honest communications in the couple’s relationship before and after the marriage is discussed constantly.

We had no bridezilla in our house and we are thankful.  Any bumps we had along the way were planted by our miscommunications, but an honest conversation quickly brought us back to the same page and with a positive result. Being honest with each other, discussing the situation, and moving on quickly made our wedding planning a very beautiful thing for mother and daughter to share.

 But what if you weren’t a good communicator?  Here’s a possible scenario to consider.

You have a budget, but you don’t tell your vendors your price point.  They come up with something that is magnificent, but out of your price range.  You now have a vision of a wedding you can’t afford.  This frustrates you, even depresses you because it won’t satisfy your dream, and you come away feeling sad or inadequate during what should be one of the happiest times in your life.

Can you make the leap from this notion to your business world?  Imagine this…The current economy is hurting your company.  You don’t tell your employees or ask them for assistance in cutting costs.  They continue to operate in an unrealistic work environment, and eventually get caught in a cost cutting mode which might include their job or their co-workers’ job. Morale sinks quickly, productivity is squashed along with morale and with productivity depressed, your revenue-stream is hurt even more.

It is very true; many people spend more waking hours at work than they do with their family.  Are you honest in your communications with your family?  Are you honest in your communications with your workforce?

Your employees know you business.  Be smart and access their intellectual capital and the love they have for your company.  Be honest with them; if business isn’t where it should be, ask them to help you identify opportunities for improvement.  You may be surprised at the recommendations you receive.

We planned a great wedding; you can have a great workplace, an engaged workforce.  Just be sure you include good communications, and two-way dialogue opportunities.  Just like ensuring a good marriage through good communications, you may have to work on it a bit. But believe me it is worth the effort!

Do you have a personal communications lesson that would translate to a work environment?  Please let us know!

Eileen Weisman is a communication strategist, mother, and mother-in-law!  Her company, The W Group helps clients create messages that are visible, heard, and understood!

thumbnail logoWhat is your immediate reaction to those two phrases? I hope you are nodding your head and agreeing with the title. That is a great first step.  But are you walking the talk?

 Listening seems like an easy task, but it really takes a sincere effort to stay engaged while the other person is speaking.  Whether it is directly to you, or the person is talking to a group, get yourself focused on each word because as a business leader you must be tuned in to what is said around you.

 Have you heard, listening is not the same as hearing?  Active listening is a skill. Have you asked anyone who works for you if you possess this important leadership quality?  May I suggest a 360 review? A strong leader would not be afraid of this review process.  Not familiar with the 360? 

Here is a short definition of the 360:  A process in which an employee or manager receives feedback about his or her competencies from peers, supervisors, direct reports, and internal and external customers. It’s a complete picture of the impact one has on those with whom he or she interacts on a frequent basis.[1]

 The 360 is a formal process and should be well constructed to reflect job core competencies. If done well, you can maximize its value. 

 But we should be listening on a daily basis to ensure we understand the mood of our organization as morale can have a direct and significant impact on the bottom line—good and bad!  I wasn’t kidding with the “lecture and lose” comment; it is true.  People won’t be listening to you if they feel you don’t listen to them.

 Encourage good listening in your organization.  Have an open door policy. Create a safe listening environment such as email, a secure voicemail box, or use Twitter. Have town hall meetings and include a survey after the meeting to ensure everyone, not just the extraverts get to ask questions.  Use the town hall meeting survey to define your next meeting.

 Today’s workforce expects you to listen to them in different formats.  With four distinct demographics, you can’t depend on the old ways to keep everyone engaged. 

 Do you think you are a good listener?  Let us know!

 

Eileen Weisman is a communication strategist at The W Group, who helps her clients create messages that are visible, heard, and understood!  You can improve your bottom line by improving your communications.

 

 

 


[1] Linda Gravett, Ph.D. SPHR

If you do, you should take the approach that the survey is only your first step of assessing attitudes, behaviors and engagement levels.  By administering the survey you have created an expectation for those who participated in the survey that you are going to do something with their opinions and comments.  They are wondering if you are truly going to listen to them, look for trends, and announce your strategy for addressing these opportunities for improvement.

What you do with the information from an opinion survey reveals what kind of leader you are. 

I am sorry if that sounds like I am challenging you, but if there is no follow-through after you ask the questions, you have just probably created a major morale minimizer within your organization!

Unfulfilled expectations reduce satisfaction, and reduced satisfaction can result in reduced business.  With employees that means lower employee engagement.  With your board and donors it could mean less underwriting, less contributions, and less engagement as well.

And that brings us to the importance of communicating within your organization.  I have said it before, and I will say it again—tell it like it is—honesty translates into respect! Use the survey as your opportunity to show commitment to the mission of your company and your organization.  Use the survey to address what has been confirmed as important issues.  Use the survey to celebrate the positive and use the survey to challenge everyone to engage in suggesting strategies or tactics for resolving these important issues.  You have empowered participants to share their ideas; now empower them to help make your organization the benchmark of its peers!

Thinking surveys cost too much money to administer is a myth. These surveys can be done for a minimal cost.  Getting started can be done quite easily and The W Group would be pleased to assist you in launching a survey, including results analysis, and suggested strategies for incorporating your results into action!

One final comment: consider surveying twice a year.  Why? Because sometimes you get people on a bad day, sometimes people can’t participate for some reason, and by surveying twice a year you address the first two reasons, and you now have two data points to begin using metrics to confirm if your action plan is taking affect.

Remember, just asking people to complete a survey sends a good message. Creating an action plan to illustrate you actually listened to what they said is “priceless.”

 

 

The answer is quite simple: Senior management is responsible for getting the word out to everyone, no matter the size of the business or organization.

 

Maybe your business isn’t global or your business doesn’t have thousands of employees. Perhaps your organization is so small that a formal internal communications strategy isn’t necessary; I don’t agree.

 

Whether you consider yourself a big business or a small business as long as you have employees or associates you need to be certain you have a formal strategy of communicating to those who assist you in the success of your operation.  Hearing important information from the top of the organization carries much weight and is the sign of strong leadership.

 

Peter Drucker (1909-2005), the man often cited as the inventor of modern management, would tell you to ask employees what needs to be done to make the business a success.  He would say to respect everyone’s ideas, learn from them, and incorporate as many ideas that make sense. Productivity and performance will improve when each employee feels their ideas are being considered.

 

According to Intel Corporation’s co-founder Andrew S. Grove: “Like many philosophers, he [Drucker] spoke in plain language that resonated with ordinary managers. Consequently, simple statements from him have influenced untold numbers of daily actions; they did mine over decades.”[1]

 

If your organization is small, speak to as many of your associates as is possible.  If you don’t have weekly staff meetings consider creating one that is interactive, action-oriented, and goal-driven.  No one wants to sit in a weekly meeting to hear information that could have been read in an email. Your personal delivery of news coupled with asking for input drives associate engagement.

 

And if you are a large company with multiple locations, even internationally dispersed, communicating successfully is possible. It begins with senior management at each location listening to those in the workplace.

 

So whether you are a big or small organization, internal communications begins with senior management listening, speaking in a way that can be understood in the lunchroom, and ensuring there is a process in place for everyone to understand the business and the business needs.

 

Be sure to create avenues for employees to be heard.  Consider an employee opinion survey to be administered at least two times a year.  Hold town hall meetings and measure their success.  Lead by example; listen to your associates and they will listen to you.  Always remember that successful communications is a two-way process.  And successful businesses have strong strategic communication plans.

 

Eileen Weisman is a communications strategist who designs successful communication environments for clients, ensuring that important messages are heard, visible, and understood. Her business philosophy is “You can improve performance by improving communications.”

 

 


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.