Memo to Leadership: Stop “Communicating!”

Posted by: in Communication, Communication Strategy, Corporate and Strategy, gary grates, Organizational Communications, Thought Leadership, twist, W2O Group on October 2, 2014

This headline might seem a bit odd especially coming from someone who has spent his whole career ensuring that leaders, managers and organizations do exactly the opposite.

But the reality today suggests that leaders, managers, and organizations are still defining “communications” as what they do to ‘tell’  employees everything from strategy to vacation policies.  In effect, it’s about selling employees on decisions already made instead of seeking input and perspectives that would enhance the final decision.

Such efforts are often manifested in videos, town-hall meetings, diagonal slice or step meetings, quarterly performance updates, or management blogs.   As currently practiced, these efforts are both ineffective and counterproductive.

And now with the influx of social media inside enterprises, the ability to connect with people and strengthen relationships is further compromised as social is used to replace instead of complement more direct methods.

Why stop communicating?

It’s actually about redefining communications in a social and digital context against a backdrop of new expectations and new learnings.

What’s currently being practiced for the most part are typically choreographed activities wrapped in hallow jargon with little or no interaction allowed.  Further, even if people provide input and opinions it is often within the construct of the effort itself.  The end result is that leaders and managers can’t hear what people are saying, doing and feeling.  Managers lose the ability to see the business through the eyes of the workforce.

In addition, and more important, such approaches blind leaders and managers into thinking they have communicated and rob employees of the ability to learn, challenge, provide input, and gain confidence in the business.

The bottom-line:  productivity, retention, and recruitment suffer.

In case after case, we continue to hear that employees are less concerned with what management has decided to do and more eager to discover what the business has learned – the context behind the decision.

Modern Communications needs to be defined as having both management and employees become part of the process.  Planning a town hall meeting? Gather input beforehand from people around the business that shapes the content and even include an employee panel to share reflections of the message and offer a counter-point to the argument. Developing a leadership message? Make sure it not only reflects a current theme or topic important to the business but that it is conveyed through the lens of the workforce, etc.

Remember, it’s no longer about employees believing they have “no voice” but realizing that their voice has “no impact.”

Business is moving at light speed with the unintended consequence being frustration, cynicism, and fear.  Just like customers, employees have individual perspectives, tastes and preferences that need to be met in order to gain trust and  commitment.

In order for employees to process information, form a perspective, and engage in a debate, there needs to be greater interaction, feedback, and conversation.

That’s what the Social Age is all about.

So, how can you get started?

Maybe the best way is to stop communicating…

Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

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