Employees, assemble!

Companies that don’t require a stadium to bring together all the employees should do so. Why? Because it’s an ideal way for leadership to communicate with employees and employees with their peers.   Unfortunately, “all-hands” meetings, as their known in some circles, have become something to dread.

The reason is because leaders so often fail to do them right, and the dread is the feedback telling them so.

When team gatherings are done right, they’re employee focused.  Leaders communicate with the team, not at them.  Topics are relevant to all, not just leaders.  Ideas are shared amongst divisions.  Great speakers are brought in to inspire, provoke thought or just make people laugh, which should never be undervalued.

The bottom line is an all-hands session is a communication tactic.  If you’re a leader, it’s not about you.  Focus on your team.  Find out what moves them and do it.   If you’re an employee, it’s all about you.  If you don’t like what you’re hearing or experiencing, say so. If you do, say so.  Great leaders will then keep it coming.

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My top 10 most recommended books

I love information.  It not only makes me smarter but inspires me to do more with my life and better myself.  Here are some of my favorite books I recommend regularly to others.  From personal finances to growing a business, these books have had a lasting impact on me.  I think you just may get a little something out of them, too.

1. Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey

2. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

3. Tribes: We need you to lead us by Seth Godin

4. Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

5. Difficult Conversations: How to discuss what matters most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen

6. How the Mighty Fall: And why some companies never give in by Jim Collins

7. Good to Great by Jim Collins

8. The Millionaire Next Door: Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas Stanley, Ph.D., and William Danko, Ph.D.

9. Why Should the Boss Listen to You: The Seven Disciplines of the Trusted Strategic Advisor by James Lukaszewski

10. The Little Red Book of Wisdom by Mark DeMoss

Have you read any of these? If so, I’d to love to read your thoughts in the comments section.

What books do you recommend?

Never hear from top leadership. And I don’t care.

Employees want and need communication from top leadership.  Survey after survey reinforces this.  As a result, leaders implement a myriad of tactics to give employees what they want.  More savvy leaders ensure there are feedback mechanisms available, too.

But is communication from or with top leadership really what people are after?  Is it really important to their long-term effectiveness? Is communication from leaders layers and layers above you in the chain of command really valuable?

When polled, sure, people will tell you it’s important and perhaps it is for some.  However, I submit what most employees want is to feel valued, do work that matters, feel team unity and have high morale.  Top leadership, especially in mega corporations, could do nothing but communicate and it would not give employees these things.

On the other hand, I submit that employees who feel valued, believe their making a difference, feel a part of a strong team and have high morale all have strong leaders as their direct bosses.  Leaders who are with them daily.  Leaders who care about them, succeed with them and more importantly are there for them when life gets hard.  When this is the case, does it really matter what top leadership has to say?

What do you think?

 

Sweat the small stuff

I first heard “don’t sweat the small stuff” years ago after “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” the book exploded in popularity.  While this is a great read on stress relief, the phrase is all too commonly used nowadays, with people using it as somewhat of an excuse for not “crushing it.”  For those who strive for excellence daily, sweating the small stuff is imperative, especially for professional communicators.  If we don’t sweat the small stuff, we’re useless to our bosses and clients.

While strategic communication is all the rage, strategy without effective tactics is like a vision without a mission and goals.  It’s a pipe dream. Also, most people want communication help largely due to our tactical expertise.  In other words, they hire us to get stuff done.  Now don’t get me wrong, strategy is imperative to implementing successful PR and marketing programs, and pro communicators should always push for strategy before tactics.  However, once the strategy is outlined, the true beauty is found in the complexity of managing details.

Value is found in the daily grind of executing communication plans, social media engagement, developing messages, pitching media, conducting events, training and writing all sorts of copy.  The art of communication is found in a team’s arguing over exact word choices, release timing, message tone, choosing the right visuals and so on. While most people only see the final product and take for granted the effort that led to its existence, it is imperative that those charged to produce that product scrutinize every last detail.  In a sense, the way I see it, communicators are charged to invent on a daily basis.

Those we serve don’t need to experience it with us or even witness it from afar.  They just need to know that in the end they can count on us to get it right.  And getting it right doesn’t happen during the first round.

Think about the iPhone.  I bet if you walked into the backroom of Apple, you’d find hundreds if not thousands of discarded models.  After examining the trashed hardware, you’d look to the right to see hundreds if not thousands of iterations of data display ideas.  Looking to the left, you’d see material samples stacked to the ceiling.  Then you’d hear a voice behind you say, “It took all of that to get to this.”  You’d then turn one-hundred and eighty degrees and a thin man in a black shirt would hand you the first touchscreen mobile device that, as they say, changed everything.

From the space shuttle to the iPhone to branding Geico, the process of invention is long, arduous and painful.  Most people don’t care to know about it, and that’s okay as long as we, the professional communicators, never forget that sweating the small stuff is what makes us excellent and keeps people coming back for more.

The power of simple messages

Every morning before we go our separate ways to work and before we go to sleep, my wife and I tell each other “I love you.” Because she drives to work, I usually include a “Be careful,” too.

Billions of people around the world use these same sentences daily to get a point across, to maintain or deepen a relationship, or to separate themselves from others in the receiver’s life. This is the point of messaging, right?

Well, then why do we make it easy in our personal lives and so complicated professionally?  Messages are meant to be short, to the point and memorable.  Again, we say “I love you.”  We don’t say “I have strong feelings for you that have grown over time that I wish to convey at this moment.”

We say “Be careful.”  We don’t say “When you drive the car to your intended destination, properly assess all known risks and plan accordingly for the unknown risks you may encounter along the way.”

Successful messaging cuts through the noise, is devoid of most jargon and doesn’t require inhaling half way through speaking it.  It’s not about communicating every single thing you know about a topic.  It’s not about showing how smart you are.  It IS about your audience.  And it IS about what you want them to know and remember.  Long winded, wordy messages do not accomplish this.

So, the next time you’re working on messaging, be it for a media interview, branding effort, web site or whatever, think about how you communicate to your family, friends and loved ones.  Just because you’re communicating from within or for an organization doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it.