The other day I got a call from a leader who wanted to do a webinar and an email and perhaps a video. I asked him what his objectives were–what he’d like to be different as a result of the activity he was requesting.
“I just think it’s time to get something out,” he responded.
“And what do you hope to accomplish?” I asked.
“I think it’s about time to tell people things,” he said, getting somewhat impatient with my business-oriented line of questioning. I’ve met many of these kinds of leaders over the years. They’re used to ordering up communication activities and receiving responses like, “And would you like fries with that?”
But. I think it’s irresponsible to let people knowingly use communication management to drain value rather than add value. So my objective is always to explain as best I can the role of good communication management, provide best practice options and then help the leader align the right solutions with the right problems. If I think I’ve made a good case and the leader still disagrees, so be it. There’s a point at which my doctor can’t control what I eat so he can cajole all he wants. But, in the end, it’s my decision, just as it’s the leader’s ultimate decision to follow a path I might not agree with.
In this case, I had an informed reason for pushing him. Focus groups that we’d conducted with his employees told us they were tired of leaders reporting to them about things that were inconsistent with what they were experiencing in their work-a-day world. “They make all these pronouncements but nothing happens,” employees told us. “They don’t walk the talk.”
I didn’t want to acquiesce to this leader because I knew if I said something like “that’s a really brilliant idea,” I’d be contributing to an existing problem and not helping him fix anything. So I explained to himthat “event-related communication” such as a meeting, a webinar, a video needs to be consistent with communication that’s part of the “world of work.” Meaning that what someone experiences at the event should be somewhat consistent with the experience that person has when she returns to work. You don’t talk about becoming a world class (whatever that means) company in a video or at a webinar if you continually tolerate bureaucratic bungling and incompetence throughout the enterprise.
I suggested an alternative approach that would align both the say communication and the do communication in such a way that the experience in the events and the world of work would become similar. In this way his credibility would be bolstered because people would see that he was making an effort to correct the say/do gap that the employees had told us about.