If you have been a consistent reader of this column, then you have a good idea of just how critical the entire communication effort is to the success of your business. Working to create great communication levels throughout your organization may seem a basic ingredient in the modern day firm, but you might be surprised by the number of companies that take a hands-off approach and allow communication to take its own natural course within a business, treating it like the weather — it's just there and no one can do much about it. That viewpoint isn't just wrong; it's dangerously out of touch.
When it comes to business essentials, I would never minimize the role of product quality or customer service. Similarly, I would be hard-pressed to downplay how vital financial capitalization, technology and smart marketing initiatives are to reaching corporate goals. However, study after study has unmistakably shown the powerful correlation between effective communication and positive revenue growth, customer retention and best-in-class profit performance. As an early column once declared, "The Company With The Best Talk Show Wins!" Attention to communication is good business!
January Is The Cruelest Month
It's true; January is no fun at all. It's cold for most of us, the holidays are over, doctor visits with the kids go up and the stock market (historically) tends to retreat and self-correct. All of this, plus the stark realization that most folks don't have any paid time-off for the next six months or so, creates grumpy people. Those same grumpy people have to work in order to pay off their big December charge card bills. And where do they go to earn this money and vent their frustration? Our shops and offices!
This dismal crowd is not just made up of employees — there's a fair share of like-minded owners in the mix and now no one's talking. By and large, January has a dramatic quieting effect. Like the old school days, your staff may cram themselves into a desk in the back trying their best to blend in and disappear from sight. But with the world's speed ever increasing, there's just no time for anyone, including the boss, to lay low and wait for spring. With just 12 short months in play, a single off month can gobble up lots of time-sensitive objectives. The 21st century allows little luxury for warm-ups, do-overs or waiting for that just-perfect moment to launch a new program or bold idea. The time is now — it's January or bust.
Creating A Common Expectation
Economic forecasts tell us that 2007 will continue to challenge businesses with GDP growth and corporate profits pulling back. The ever-important housing market is predicted to spill another 7 percent on top of the 10 percent giveback we felt in 2006. On a positive note, it appears that employment, inflation and interest rates, including mortgages, might just behave. What does this mean? Simply put, to reach your goals in 2007 you will need to enlist everyone's aggressive assistance. Loyal helpers won't get you there — you need workers who act like fellow owners and junior partners. In other words, you need teammates who know the play and want the ball.
To truly leverage the people power you have under the hood, your most critical mission is to CREATE A COMMON EXPECTATION of success, and that is going to take all of your skill as a leader and talent as a communicator. You cannot have a common expectation without establishing common knowledge! The very best step along this leader's path is to hold a confidential State of The Company Meeting where you open the playbook and share the numbers along with your strategic direction. Inspire your staff with the truth. Spin does nothing but slow everyone down and half-truths turn poisonous when they're inevitably discovered. This is a critical meeting — a tone-setting meeting that takes planning and preparation and positioning. Don't think of it as giving up your secrets; think of it as giving your people something to bond with (ownership!) that is far bigger than the petty issues that currently soak up everyone's energy.
State Of The Company Starter Pack
Sharing, bearing and caring are key. If you regularly hold successful open-book company meetings, then you already know what makes for a productive session where everyone shares the problems and opportunities, everyone bears the responsibility for monitoring and improvement, and everyone cares immensely about the outcome. If open meetings are new to your company, you now have a great chance to see what both you and your organization are made of. Whatever your experience level, you should use professional presentation tools to boost your chances of hosting great meetings. When used correctly, Microsoft PowerPoint (when used in conjunction with Excel charts and graphs) is one of the greatest management and communication tools available to businesses today. The following PowerPoint slide concepts will help you form the structure of the presentation — especially if you remember how to play the fill-in-the-blank game "MAD LIBS."
Slide 1: Welcome to our 2007 State of The Company Kick-Off Meeting. We're going to share some highly confidential information with you today and to make it work for us, we're going to need your assurance and agreement that you won't ever discuss this outside the company. Only those who make and keep this promise can be allowed to share in this event.
Slide 2: Purpose. Information is the foundation for understanding and problem solving. We will now regularly share our performance numbers and strategies with you to increase each associate's span of communication and knowledge and to create ownership on every level of our company.