For Leaders Who Expect Better Communication from Employees: 5 Ways to Achieve It

April 18, 2016 in Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Training

2 levelsAs a leader, you expect your employees’ business communication to be effective and efficient. But is it?

Too often, it’s not. (I’ve written about the business implications here.)  However, it doesn’t have to be that way. To be effective and efficient, business interactions must succeed on two levels. Helping your employees understand this concept is the first step toward improving their communication,  whether it takes place during meetings, presentations, training sessions, important one-on-ones, informal hallway discussions, and even voicemails, instant messaging, and email.

The first level of success is easy for employees to understand. It’s about achieving the goal—being clear, concise, and persuasive enough so that others buy, agree, align, or learn.

The second level is also easy to understand, but more challenging to master. This level is about skillfully managing the process so that a fruitful conversation takes place and business gets done. This level is about ease and efficiency.

5 elements contribute to the second level of success.

1. Create the conditions for a fruitful conversation
Business rarely gets done through one-way communication. It requires a rich dialogue and conclusions drawn from multiple points of view. This means that the leader of the conversation must find ways to encourage others to contribute. This is more than saying, “Please ask questions,” or “What do you think?” It’s about creating a safe environment for people to share their thoughts freely and without judgment. Empathy, silence, and good listening all play a role.

2. Establish context
It’s common for people to show up to a meeting or presentation not knowing why they were invited or what they’re supposed to accomplish. Effective communicators establish context from the very beginning. They explain (even when it seems obvious) why the meeting has been called, what they’re trying to accomplish, and what’s led the group to this point already. Here’s an example: “Thanks for joining the meeting today. As we all know, we have a problem in the supply chain. Our goal today is to understand the variables so that we can fix the problem and get the manufacturing floor back up and running quickly.” Sometimes the context is mundane, but important to establish nonetheless. “Good Monday morning. Welcome to the staff meeting. There’s a lot going on this week, and I want to make sure we’re all ready for what’s coming. Let’s get started.”

3. Earn trust and goodwill
Nobody wants to go to another meeting where they feel their time is wasted. Over time, the leader of these meetings can chew through an awful lot of trust and goodwill. “Not Larry again…” If you feel a direct report is turning into a Larry, address it swiftly. Explain that time is money, and that their disorganization is causing frustration.

4. Make it easy for colleagues to participate in the conversation
Making decisions isn’t always easy, but the process of making them doesn’t have to be confusing. Likewise, a team update shouldn’t be difficult to follow. Every meeting needs structure and clarity. Agendas should be used. Supporting documents should be clear. Graphics should be clearly labeled and easy to grasp. If meeting attendees have to work too hard to understand the basics, they may give up.

5. Manage the give and take of the interaction
Meetings are a process, not a product. This means that the give and take of the conversation is an integral part of them. It also means that meetings can get messy. A little mess is OK. Slogging through the muck can often uncover important discoveries that lead to better outcomes. However, if things get too messy, the goal can get lost and everyone can feel stuck. Employees must learn to strike a balance between allowing too much conversation and controlling it too much. Often, simply acknowledging the situation can help control it, for example, “We’ve talked through a lot of issues, let me summarize so that we can move on.” Another example might be: “You’ve brought up a terrific point, and I think we should talk more about that. We’ve got 20 minutes left, and we still have two more agenda points to cover. Let’s make a group decision. Should we continue down this path, or table it for now so that we can end on time?”

Meetings cannot be perfected. But business shouldn’t grind to a halt because they are poorly facilitated. Using the concepts outlined here will help you coach your team to more effective and efficient communication. [Tweet “Meetings can’t be perfected. But things shouldn’t grind to a halt due to poor facilitation.”]

How else have you solved poor communication at work?

Dale Ludwig, Turpin Communication’s Founder, applied this concept specifically to presentations. Read what he had to say.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Optics Matter

October 8, 2013 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings

greg 200x300Gretchen Pisano, a consultant colleague of mine, starts many of her consulting engagements with this quote, “Be present or be absent, but don’t be both.” Learn about Gretchen here:  Sounding Board, Inc.

I love that quote.

Next time you’re in a meeting, look around. How many of your colleagues are physically in the room, but not present?

They might be staring off or checking their email. They might even be playing a game on their smart phone.

Who knows? They could actually be listening, but you wouldn’t know it. They appear disinterested and disengaged, and that sends a message to everyone else in the room.

We all know this, of course, but it’s good to be reminded once in a while:

Optics matter.

It’s not enough to be engaged. You need to look engaged too.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

The 2 Levels of Defining Presentation Success

June 3, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Presentation, Training

Your success as a business presenter always exists on two levels.

  1. On one level it is determined by whether the stated goal of the presentation is reached. Did the buyer agree to buy, for example. Or, did your team see the need for the new procedure you’re asking them to follow? This type of success is fairly easy to measure.
  2. The other level of success is more difficult. It is a measure of how effectively you managed the process of presenting. Or, as we look at it, did you manage the conversation in an appropriately orderly fashion?

The second level of success often determines the first. I’m sure there are times when a poorly managed presentation achieves the goal it was intended to reach. But when you consider how the process felt to the audience—frustrating, inefficient, a waste of time—such a presentation can hardly be considered a complete success.

Presenting is Part of Your Everyday Work

The thing we need to remember is that presentations are part of everyone’s day-to-day work. So when presenters fail to manage the process well, they’re making it difficult for audience members to do their jobs. When that happens, audience members are stuck. After all, they are captive. They don’t have the option of walking out or flipping to a new channel. So what they often do is silently disengage. They might feel a sudden need to check their email or think about dinner, doing whatever they can to cope with a bad situation.

Most of the time this reaction has little to do with the goal of the presentation (level 1) and everything to do with whether the presenter is managing the conversation effectively (level 2).

For example, if you’re delivering market research to a group of sales people, your audience wants to understand the research, but they also want you to make understanding it easy. That level of success goes beyond the information itself. It involves:

  • Emphasizing context and relevance
  • Providing perspective
  • Leaving out information that isn’t useful to your audience (whether you want to or not)
  • Caring about their understanding and buy in
  • Being responsive to the in-the-moment needs of the audience

Business presentations are a collaborative process. Pulling your slides together and having a specific goal is only the first step, and that step alone will never guarantee success. A successful presentation is one in which the audience and the presenter work together in a fruitful, efficient process.

[Tweet “A successful presentation has audience and presenter working together.”]

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”