Preaching Technology

October 11, 2009

If you are a regular to my blogs you know I turn everyday experiences into lessons for leadership, honest communications and employee engagement. Opening my Sunday paper today was the following headline and story:

PRAISE FOR TECHNOLOGY
Tweeting during church services gets blessing of pastors.

Now I am not preaching to bring religion into the workplace, but there sure is a lesson here, one I have been preaching….You have got to set up “listening stations” at work.  Just like the leaders of this church, you as leaders of your congregation of employees must recognize and begin to address how you are going to hear from them.  It’s not business as usual anymore. And here is a quote from the article:

“The nondenominational church recently started a new service encouraging parishioners to tweet their thoughts, reflections and questions in 140 characters or less via Twitter, the popular micro­blogging social network.”

Wow!  How many of you would have expected that one?  Now I am not saying tell your rabbi, pastor, priest or minister to take up tweeting, or to encourage tweets during their service (but feel free to forward them this blog), but it sure is an eye-opener that life is changing everywhere, even in places of worship!

So here I go again, preaching to you about the multi-gen workforce you can’t ignore!  I said it before, and I will say it again, “How about using Twitter during a town hall meeting.”  Or better yet, use it every day as a feedback mechanism, let’s just rename the suggestion box “TOFI”—Twitter Opportunities for Improvement!  Sure, this concept might be difficult for you to grasp but I am asking you, no begging you, to at least consider it.

What’s your soap-box issue regarding your workplace? Let’s start a conversation to see what you feel needs immediate fixing!  Take a minute and write something in the “reply” section of this blog posting!

Eileen Weisman is a preacher of using technology to hear employees, a communication strategist, a dog-lover, an avid recycler, and a mother of the bride.

Contact The W Group to discuss opportunities for improving the listening environment within your company or organization.

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Listen to the Kid, and Listen!

September 24, 2009

W small only

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

________________________________________________________

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.

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!

Social networking doesn’t just belong to the Gen X and Gen Y generations anymore.  The fastest growing segment on Facebook is now the 35-54 year old user—and that demographic includes the baby boomers! That specific metric grew at a pace of 276% over the last six months of 2008 which means if it continues at that rate, it will be doubling every two months![1]  Facebook’s community is growing older each day and with numbers like these, someone in your organization will be joining Facebook or another social network if not today, tomorrow!

With employees joining social networks the question “How Do You Feel about Employees Using Social Networks during Business?becomes very relevant.  As the employer what is your immediate reaction to my question?  Is it a “No, and I mean no!”  Or maybe you are thinking about rethinking your response, and perhaps you may be one of those who haven’t even begun to think about social networking at your company.

It is not possible for anyone to answer the question for you or your organization, but I can provide some food for thought!  According to a study in Australia at the University of Melbourne taking a social network break can improve productivity. This report released on April 2, 2009 states, “Surfing the net at work for pleasure actually increases our concentration levels and helps make a more productive workforce.”[2]

According to Dr. Brent Coker, the lead investigator of the study, Entitled Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing (WILB) can be attributed to people’s imperfect concentration.  “People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration.  Think back to when you in class listening to a lecture–after about 20 minutes your concentration probably went right down, yet after a break your concentration was restored.”

In a recent study by Deloitte LP entitled “Enterprise Value of Online Communities Yet to be Realized,[3]” they measured the responses of over 140 companies, including Fortune 100 organizations, which created and maintain online communities today. The communities ranged from fewer than 100 members to more than 10,000 members.

The Deloitte study found, “Communities can extend the edge of the corporation in truly transformative ways  –  tapping into new talent, helping design products and services, providing customer support and, most importantly, building the brand with the customer,” said Ed Moran, director of product innovation, Deloitte Services LP. “The survey data points to some growing pains, but companies are starting to see that online communities should be nurtured and leveraged for real business gain.”

So here is what I have garnered from reading the latest research:

  • People, including baby boomers are joining social networks at an extremely rapid pace
  • Social networking can improve productivity in the workplace if done in moderation
  • Using a social network for marketing purposes can provide talent development, innovative design production, and brand recognition

And therefore, the proposition on the table becomes how to marry these recommendations to work in your organization!  Can you do it?  Are you up for it? The W Group would be pleased to help you navigate in this new world!

I do have a word of caution:  be sure that if you develop this new element of business 2.0, that you avoid the pitfalls of social notworking! And that can be another topic for discussion later.[4]

 

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] Istrategy Labs  http://www.istrategylabs.com/facebook-demographics-2008-update-its-getting-older-in-there

[2] University of Melbourne, http://uninews.unimelb.edu.au/news/5750/, April 2009

[3] Deloitte LLC, http://www.deloitte.com/dtt/press_release/0,1014,sid%253D2245%2526cid%253D217168,00.html, July 2008

[4] Urban Dictionary, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Social%20Notworking&defid=3617456