In an extract from her book ‘More balls than most’, Lara Morgan looks at a variety of successful communication methods, and provides some advice for talking to people in your business.
- Regularly, and in different settings where necessary, think about the comfort of any environment for the people concerned. Never be on a physically different level to them.
- The timing of when you talk to your people should always be thought through in relation to the message you are going to give and the kind of impact you wish to have:
- Deliver bad news on Fridays – late in the day – so people have time to think over weekends, and if necessary (for really big bad news) plan a follow-up meeting for questions the following Monday.
- Always deliver good news on a Monday.
- Always talk to new arrivals on their first day.
- When you have a continual change project to report on, outside the normal reporting for a special project, set a sensible time convenient to everyone involved if at all possible. Establish that this is the time the matter will be updated in order to stay on top and to maintain momentum. And continuity of communication in such hideous situations as a redundancy process can be much more constructive than allowing destructive whispers to germinate. Keep things open as much as possible, and set a standard that communication matters and that it is always two way.
- Announcements like staff departing need to be planned correctly and celebrated appropriately with thanks. Who knows when a person may come back to you?
- Following communication with an open door/private approach policy is important. Irrespective of the outspoken nature of some of my team, knowing my door was always open was priceless to some of them.
- If there are ‘missing persons’ during important meetings, get a note writer and have messages emailed. And during all company updates make sure a confirmatory email summarising key announcements follows, for everyone to read and take in.
- Engagement is difficult to engender in a company, and sometimes you need to set standards and always encourage a cross-view of opinions. Consider the questions you might expect if there is a sensitive issue at hand and plan your response – though in practice I rarely did this as I felt an honest response to questions was always the best way. I used to hold impromptu meetings, the sort where I would simply enter one side of the office area and ask people to stop what they were doing and come to the other side and have a casual ‘wanted to let you know’ (and ask any questions) session. Every meeting people came with pen and paper, and I would often also make something up to encourage participation of some kind in everything we did.
- The impromptu meetings that I used to call as we grew were frighteningly powerful. I would ask a random group of individuals to give me feedback on any range of topics. They might include products, some of my battier marketing ideas, any bugbears I might be having, and often brainstorms for a particular presentation or offer that we were putting together. Sometimes I gathered a group of suspects in the office simply because I was lonely while putting together a big scary offer and I wanted to show the team what I was progressing. I suppose I was showing off to some extent, but I was always looking to improve – and many brains are better than one.
- Communicate regularly; always be as upbeat as possible. When there is bad news, give it straight and then talk about improvements to leave things positive. Also get others in your team to learn the ‘walking round the room’ kind of individual conversations that need to happen to keep a pulse on your company. You cannot be aloof, and you must always be cheery and say ‘good morning’ whenever you arrive at your offices. People watch the way you communicate all the time and you will be setting the mood of your company in everything you do. I was by no means perfect at this but I have seen many who were worse, and the damage to their own success – and mostly the respect in which they were held – is huge.
This extract is taken from More balls than most © Lara Morgan, 2011 (published by Infinite Ideas). Lara is founder of Company Shortcuts – a consultancy dedicated to excellence in sales and leadership. For tips, checklists and templates to help you grow your business, visit: www.companyshortcuts.com