By Jennifer Openshaw
RISMEDIA, June 27, 2007 – (MarketWatch) – As the “dog days” of summer kick in, staying alert and motivated in the workplace can be a challenge. Especially during those meetings and interactions with clients and colleagues and, for that matter, even with your own family.
Is it harder to get your point across? Are you not “getting” what others are trying to tell you? Happens to me, and I’m sure it happens to you.
What’s going on? We drift into old habits. We get lazy, as individuals and as organizations. Our communications suffer. When we talk, it all sounds the same. Especially in the Millionaire Zone, that’s not a good thing.
I hadn’t planned to write on this subject. But I ran across an article in a newsletter called Words That Work, published by San Francisco communications consulting firm RealEdit, called ” Induce Inspiration, Not Yawns,” It was so on target I felt compelled to share.
From here to inspiration
When I first saw the title I thought: “Oh, not another inspirational piece….” But I was surprised: one page of clear, concise advice on communication — and really, leadership. Easy to remember and easy to do.
It was written to “help managers truly engage employees and help spark passion about their organization.” But the seven points run deeper and wider into all communications, professional and personal.
Four of the seven points were well described but fairly standard stuff: “communicate regularly,” “strive for quality,” “encourage feedback” and “use appropriate media.” The remaining three really hit home. They distinguish the good from the merely ordinary — and lazy — institutional style of communication.
With their permission, I’ll paraphrase the three:
Be honest and substantive. Communicate the bad news, not just the good news, and don’t leave out details. Lack of full disclosure breeds rumor and resentment. Being honest shows the recipient you trust them enough to tell the truth. So you make a mistake, fess up! If sales didn’t come through last month, tell everyone (and better yet, tell why). You’ll get more help. Better yet, people will be more likely to believe you next time around — good news or bad.
Provide the inside scoop. You like having the “scoop” yourself, so why shouldn’t your audience? It stimulates interest, and your colleagues will learn more about you and your business besides. And you don’t want people to hear it from another source. So don’t be afraid to spread the details or tell the “rest of the story” about why something turned out the way it did. Mind you, not so much detail as to be boring. But enough to tell them you know what’s going on and are willing to share. Oh, and by the way, make sure it’s factual — don’t spread gossip.
Rein in institutional palaver. I’m sure this is familiar — the jargon, buzzwords, clich?s of business-speak that sound good, but mean little. It wastes everyone’s time, and is perceived by sharp listeners as an exercise in “CYA,” or worse, not knowing what you’re talking about. Here’s a test: read or listen to what you write or say: if your mother, kids or next-door neighbor wouldn’t understand it, it’s overloaded with institutional “stuff.”
As a short sidetrack, you know I advocate a “value” approach to investing. Evaluating management competence is a key principle, which is in turn judged by noting the candor and clarity of their communications.
So the seven points, and especially the three just expanded should guide you in appraising a management team. In internal communications, public presentations or investor conference calls I look for honesty, the inside scoop, and clear language — and so should you.
RealEdit co-founder Sandra Stewart offered a few more pointers. “People have a really good nose for B.S.,” according to Stewart. “They know when they’re not getting the full story but a self-serving sugar-coated version instead.”
And: “When you hide something, you’re really communicating that you don’t trust or respect your audience.”
And: “Most organizations do great things. But you can’t tell from their communications.”
She added that most of history’s memorable leaders — Lincoln, Churchill, for instance — are “plain spoken, and say what they mean.”
Listen to yourself for signs of falling into the “institutional” trap. I know I will.
Jennifer Openshaw is author of The Millionaire Zone and CEO of Openshaw’s Family Financial Network. In addition to appearing regularly as a commentator in the media she hosts ABC Radio’s Winning Advice and serves as an adviser to some of America’s top corporations. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.