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Tag: Leadership

Summer Reading List for Communicators (or Wannabes)

Looking forward to some time off this summer? While you’re relaxing at the beach or enjoying an early start to the weekend with Summer Fridays, make time to sharpen your skills. Each of these books listed below will help you become a more effective communicator and leader.

Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace and the Will to Change, Jennifer Brown
This book could not be more timely. Every successful business must ensure that all employees experience a welcoming work environment where they can perform at their best and are challenged to grow. Jennifer shares best practices and business cases that inclusion is an opportunity to make your business better. Share the book with peers at your business and start a conversation.

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges, Amy Cuddy
You may know Amy from her viral TED Talk where she contends that adopting a power pose, like Wonder Woman, can actually make feel more confident. Her book expands on this premise with practical tips for anyone who has to pitch themselves or their ideas. If you think of a witty retort after the moment passes, this book is for you.

Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Great Presentations, Nancy Duarte
Raise your hand if you’ve sat through presentations that include 50+ slides. For years I wrapped this book up as a holiday gift to clients, hoping they would read it and realize you don’t have to put paragraphs on slides. Nancy Duarte has carved out a unique niche as a presentation expert. If that doesn’t seem very exciting, consider that within corporations, presentations are the most used channel for delivering information. This book will help you strategize the story, content, and flow to impact and influence your audience.

Sell with a Story, Paul Smith
We can all agree that storytelling is a powerful communications tool. But it takes practice to create stories that instruct, inspire and ignite action. Smith provides fascinating examples on you can take even the most technical, data-driven content and fashion a memorable story.

What are you reading this summer? Send me your picks: Maureen.Clayton@insight-communication.com.

After #MeToo: Communicating Your Workplace Harassment Policy

In the wake of widespread media reports of sexual harassment, what is your business doing ensure a safe and accountable workplace?  Consider this: the #MeToo hashtag was shared more than 1 million times in just 48 hours after being posted to social media. The public debate continues as others are empowered to share their stories.

This is not a new issue. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 94% of U.S. companies have harassment and/or bullying policies that outline conduct that is prohibited. But if you think having a policy is enough, think again.  A 2016 EEOC study of workplace harassment revealed that policies alone do not encourage appropriate behavior. The study reported that approximately 90% of survey participants who experienced sexual harassment never file a complaint.

This is a unique, timely moment to be very clear about workplace harassment. It benefits everyone to make this a priority in your business. When employees experience a safe and welcoming workplace, they perform at their best and drive business performance.  As you review this issue internally, consider these communication best practices.

Review and update the existing Harassment Policy

Start by examining the current policy. When was the last time it was reviewed and updated?  If it’s been more than five years, it’s too old.  The policy should, at a minimum, list examples of prohibited conduct, detail the process for reporting objectionable conduct, and be signed by the current CEO. Then ensure that the policy, and the reporting process, is accessible.  Bottom line: let employees know where to go for help.

Time for leaders to speak out

Every leader must be accountable. Let employees hear directly from the C-Suite that harassment will not be tolerated. Human Resources can support this endeavor, but can’t shoulder it alone. Executives must step up and commit that when allegations are brought, they will be investigated immediately and that appropriate actions will follow.  Convey that retaliation is prohibited since many cases are unreported due to fears of job loss or reprisals.

Train. Train. Train.

Most companies provide online harassment training, but do you mandate that training is completed? Is harassment addressed in new employee orientation? Training will ensure a better understanding of the behaviors that comprise harassment. Additionally, the HR team must be prepared and ready to conduct prompt, objective and thorough investigations.

Amplify the message through internal communications

If an employee experiences sexual harassment–or witnesses it–do they know what steps to take? Make it easy for individuals to report. Use multiple channels to share the harassment policy and reporting procedure. Talk about it in town halls, blogs, create a video from the CEO and put a link to the policy on the home page of your company intranet. Make it loud so that everyone understands that harassment is unacceptable in your company culture.

A Gift for you on our Birthday

I was a reluctant entrepreneur.  I didn’t have business school training, or someone else’s money, or a killer app to get me started. In fact, in 2000 when I launched Insight Communications, apps didn’t exist.  After many years in corporate communication leadership roles, I knew I wanted more.  I left my job without a detailed plan. It was an eye opener.  Gone was the status that came with my previous role, my dedicated assistant, and a cool Midtown office. My new office was my dining room table. And it turned out just great.

Now Insight Communications is 17 years old! That’s a remarkable milestone when 8 out 10 small businesses fail. Over the years, we transitioned from marketing communications to internal communications. In 2014, we branched out to hatch Nest Egg Communications, a boutique agency focused on ESOP and retirement communications.

None of it would be possible without the customers who have sustained us, challenged us, and inspired us along the way.  I am so thankful to them, particularly to Clay Robbins at Oglethorpe Power who was our first customer.

To celebrate our birthday, we have a gift for you: Our viewpoint on communications that separates great workplaces from good ones.  Enjoy!

Less is more. The secret to effective communications is keeping it simple. Resist the urge to add more superficial detail.  Your audiences will pay attention.

Commitment at the top is the key to success. We’ve worked with both types of leadership teams -those that are aligned and those who just say they are. Your employees recognize when your leaders don’t walk the talk. Get in step.

Personal stories leave a handprint on the heart. The shortest distance between two people is a story. When you share a personal story, people pay attention and remember the point of your message.

Be credible. We’ve seen more than a few companies ballyhoo their fantastic culture externally, while internally, the high performers are beating it out the door. Respect your employees enough to tell the truth. Be brave enough to be transparent, even when the news isn’t good. The most successful businesses tell it straight and involve employees in solutions.

Make your employees the stars. Let’s face it; we’ve all seen enough of the CEO.  How often do you hear from frontline employees? Make employees the stars of your internal communications, recruiting and social media.  It will bring your brand to life for customers, partners, and new talent.

Atlanta Hawks: A case study on engagement, teamwork, leadership

Ten years ago, picture this scene:

I’m sitting with friends in a mostly-empty Phillips Arena to watch the Atlanta Hawks play the Boston Celtics. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. We weren’t really there to watch the game. We were there to get autographs from players, to hang out in freely-upgraded seats near the court (to try to mask the poor attendance to television viewers), and to troll the opponents as they walked to and from the locker room. Tickets were only $10, so it was a pretty cheap way to waste a Friday night in high school. The Hawks lost by 20. But to look on the bright side, Hawks employees gave us a box of inflatable thunder sticks (inflatable noisemakers) to take home. By the end of the season, the Hawks had won 13 games, and we’d won four boxes of thunder sticks and several items of game worn memorabilia — five shoes, two headbands, and a sock.

The NBA is a glamorous TV product that is played by some of the best athletes on the planet. But in Atlanta, the team was so bad that most of the “crowd” (and I use that term loosely) had to find ways outside the court’s lines to entertain themselves. If you did focus on the game, it was ugly. Not only did the team rack up poor results, but the quality of the play was terrible. Lots of standing around. Lots of one-on-one offense. And lots of complaining by players and coaches, which lead to the same by the fans.

Skip ahead to today, where the Hawks have the best record in the Eastern Conference and are the only team to have punched their ticket for the playoffs with a hefty 18 games still remaining in the regular season. They produced four all-stars — a club record. They’ve had a 19 game winning streak, tied for the sixth longest in NBA history. I never would have believed such success was possible 10 years ago.

The credit has to go to Head Coach Mike Budenholzer and the players who have adopted his “team first” mentality. His leadership is a perfect example to any leader in any walk of life on how to turn a team into something greater than the sum of its parts. The newly found success of the team is rooted in this philosophy. For example, instead of letting players pick their lockers, or ordering them numerically or alphabetically, “Coach Bud” strategically sat each player next to one teammate they could influence and one who could influence them. He instituted team dinners after road games. The examples go on, but maybe nothing signifies the adoption of his methods more than this excerpt reported by SI.com’s Lee Jenkins:

 “Everyone is part of the shot,” [shooting guard Kyle] Korver says. “Everyone matters, and if you feel like you matter, you take ownership.”

That’s engagement, folks. Engagement isn’t about how fun your job is or how often you talk to your boss. It’s about your employees knowing that they matter. Employees who feel valued are more productive and happy people. This is what every boss should aim for, not just the ones on the hardcourt.

If you’re a business owner or you lead a team, take notes from Coach Bud. Think about the little things. Heck, even team meals and seating arrangements apply to many offices. Engage your team and you might discover that you have more all-stars than you thought.

How Business Leaders Can Apply Army Leadership Principles

Image of human palm with trust written on itMy first day of Army Basic Training was pretty memorable for a couple of reasons. One: it was the last time I ever cried in the Army (maybe I’ll tell you that part of the story another time). And two: it taught me the power of metaphor in action.

 That morning, I watched with the other females in my platoon as our male counterparts marched into a little room sporting Flock of Seagulls haircuts, mullets, and other deeply individual ‘dos and then filed out one by one onto the bleachers opposite us, shorn of their individuality, all wearing fresh “induction cuts” and solemn faces. You’re in the Army now, Soldier.

What I only vaguely understood that day was that this simple, symbolic act was the beginning of a time-honored process that—over the next grueling 10 weeks—would transform a bunch of rag-tag  late teens and twenty-somethings into a cohesive band of brothers and sisters who would learn to trust themselves, their battle buddies, and their leaders with their lives.  I would learn what kind of leadership it takes to create bonds that sometimes last a lifetime and push us beyond the limits of our physical and mental endurance.  Our leaders got us to run hard, shoot straight and have each others’ backs all while we endured constant misery and sleep deprivation.

The time-tested systems and processes the Army has in place for getting things done are documented in triplicate, but  inspiring and nurturing that kind of trust and extraordinary effort is more about principles than process. Though Army leadership techniques are not always directly transferable to the business world, key principles are applicable to any leader, anywhere.

In an article written for Harvard Business Publishing, Army psychologist Lieutenant Colonel Diane Ryan identifies three key elements of Army leadership principles that help create phenomenal trust: 

  • Shared values
  • Relationships that foster cooperation
  • Perceived competence

Genuine competence is obviously a necessity for gaining the respect and trust of peers and employees in any business. Relationships that foster cooperation begin with mutual respect and shared experience. And when corporate, leadership, and employee values are aligned and everyone is taking action and communicating from those values, you have an unstoppable tour de force that can accomplish extraordinary things under extraordinary circumstances.

How do you create trust and inspire employees to give their best? More transparent communications are a good start.  Contact us to start the conversation.