Get out and talk to the troops!

Some senior managers seem to think that communication is like a magic box of tricks that you pull out from time to time to get you through a problem period.

What alarms me most about this approach is that it misses the critical point: Communication isn't a commodity, it's a critical element of leadership.

Great communication programs–especially internal ones– should be about empowering the leadership team with the tools and processes to have regular conversations with their people.

You can have as many programs, project charts and policies as you like but none of that will help without a genuine commitment to staying regularly in touch with your people.  Communication is just a means to an end: To maintain relationships and trust.  As a leader, you respect me as a member of your team by acknowledging my need to be kept informed.  Not to know everything – I "get" the fact that there are some things you need to keep under your hat, that's just common sense.  What's most important to me as a member of your team?  That I know you genuinely WANT to stay in touch and that you respect me enough to keep the conversation going.  My number one tip for senior managers wanting to engender good communications internally? Get out and talk to the troops!

Grandmothers wearing mini-skirts

There are things in this world that just aren’t right.  Who told politicians it was a good idea to go around kissing babies?  Why do some companies insist on calling me at home in the middle of dinner and then expect me to buy something off them?

Then there is the phenomenon in advertising and marketing that is akin to a grandmother wearing a mini skirt.  I’m talking about those companies who, in an effort to reach out to the younger demographics, decide its time to get down and get trendy.

There are some brands that are just naturally young.  Coca Cola, Virgin and Rip Curl are just a few that come to mind.  But if your company decides you desperately need to connect with Gen Y’s or whoever, avoid at all costs the temptation to go “mini skirt hunting”. 

There are some companies that my kids just want to stay middle aged or even a bit older.  They like it that way. 

A few years ago I was trying to help a respected older company lift its sales to younger people.  We naturally assumed that being part of the “Internet generation” we had to focus our attention online and perhaps show a bit of leg. True, online was a good channel for starting the conversation but a surprisingly large number of the younger folk we surveyed actually wanted to have a face-to-face conversation with someone like…their mum.  If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. We are talking here about insurance designed to cover you for things you haven’t experienced yet…like perhaps having kids of your own one day.  You’d actually feel much better talking to someone who looks like they might know a bit about it.

If you’re selling surf products, I’m happy to accept the 18 year old in board shorts with tatts.  But many products and services need to remember that credibility doesn’t come from how hip you are but- far more importantly regardless of the generation- how trustworthy you are.