Archive for the ‘Communication at Work’ Category

What happens after the storm?

August 26, 2016

So your company has been through some “ish. That’s no surprise, no company becomes great without facing the storm. But when the fan has been cleaned and  the clouds start to clear, its the communicator’s job to help a company deal with what happens after the storm.

My answer is simple: The focus needs to be on the survivors.

No leader with a company that had offices in NYC’s Twin Towers for the attacks of 9/11 focused on anything other than employee health and wellness in the aftermath of the attacks. When the ash clouds covered the city, the focus was on those directly affected and survivor well being. The best leaders know that this focus should never shift – no matter how bad that last round of layoffs was – the people you chose to keep need to be reminded that they = company success. They matter. The company HAS to care.

As companies struggle to deal with the changes of a slumping economies and profits, the focus must be on those staff members who are still at work.

So how do you focus on the survivors? The rainbows that come in the aftermath of Corporate slaughter are generated from the passion and dedication of a workforce that feels cared for. Expressing care is not just in the form of yet another “feel good” email. Leaders must walk the talk. Here are some tips.

My tips:

  • Keep it real:Sugar coating a situation to employees = lying = distrust = demotivated employees. Who wants those around right? Be honest about the state of the company, explain the reasons for cut backs (please ensure they are legal) and employees will be more likely to stay on the bumpy ride with you.
  • Say Thank You: I’ve written a bit on this before. A recognized employee is a motivated employee which means, they’ll likely stay around. Recognition need not always be tied to money. As increasingly generation X & Y prefer flexible work environments and millennials just want time off, consider giving a day off, early dismissal on a Friday etc to recognize staff. Hey, even a hand written thank you card is awesome – who writes anymore right? Whatever you do, say thank you, make it meaningful and tie it to what matters to the employee.
  • One on One 911: A leader I look up to in the energy industry makes time each quarter for one on ones with all staff in his organizational chart. A L L. Over 40 people report to this man indirectly – he meets with everyone from secretary to manager. Why? Time = interest = increased motivation = increased productivity. I have tried this approach and it works. Giving employees the time to speak through their challenges and to again, recognize their achievements one on one definitely bears the fruit of increased productivity. #tryit The August 8 2016 Harvard Business Review wrote a great article on the importance of one on ones and, of course, tips on how to make them happen. 
  • Train to Retain: When financial times are tough, training and travel are one of the first two line items to be removed. My views on this one are very strong. Investing in the capability of your people is some of the best money you will ever spend – just ask the now Amazon effect proof Home Depot whose founder One of the easiest line items to cut is employee training. Not investing in training is a mistake says Bernie Marcus, the billionaire founder of The Home Depot in an Inc 2009 article: “Training sometimes seems like a small thing, but it is actually the first step in empowering people to do their jobs well,” Marcus says. “No matter what an employee’s position was within the company, he or she could make a contribution by being creative or working hard. Training combined with providing employees a sense of belonging and rewarding them for results were the keys to our success.”I’ve left roles when I felt my development was not being given significant attention by the company. Yes, staff development costs is not the sole responsibility of the employer, but indeed, not all development is classroom based either. Mentoring, on the job training, hell, even exposing high performing staff to senior level meetings, etc are all great ways of developing in role. But, employer be ware, if you won’t invest in your people, another company will.

Hopefully these tips will help your company’s survivors. Know of course, that these approaches can’t live on paper or email – you will note, many require actual conversations. Help your leaders through the process by preparing key messages and talking points on your company’s way forward. Then give it a few months for things to get better. And, of course, when they do, send me a thank you for these tips. 🙂



Media Relations – your key to passing crisis 101

February 10, 2014

imageCrisis 101. Regrettably that’s as far as even the most advanced communications professional in the Caribbean gets. Possibly it can be considered fortunate to learn about crisis management only in the classroom but that fortune quickly runs out when your company is thrown under public scrutiny for an accident or incident.

Two years post the Ca (more…)

Do you need to respond?

August 29, 2013

I get about 100 odd email messages a day. That number is per email inbox. I have 4.

I am not alone. Email, with its fast bad self, is way too easy for even the half witted among us to create. Some even consider hitting send on a half finished email communication. #guiltyascharged. Or, better yet, they communicate verbally and then send an email confirming they spoke. #gross

I have had enough but luckily, as my inboxes burgeoned, my capacity to figure out what email messages require responses grew too. Here are my tips:

If your boss writes you, RESPOND. Duh!
Ok so maybe your boss writes a lot of email. You despise them secretly. Poor you. Hah! No one above you in your organization (the flat organization is NOT reality kids) thinks that so stop being not so smart and respond to their email queries or at least acknowledge what has been sent. Why is this important? 4 reasons: Bosses are busier than you are. They pay your salary. They do your performance reviews. Responding strokes their ego and any boss who claims that is not important did not work their way up an organization. It’s not about sucking up – responding to email from superiors is also a way of showing R E S P E C T.

Family first. Kinda.
Ok so your aunt Edith forwards you jokes. Ignore. But if your husband writes you or your kids, find time to respond. Hey, being a great parent these days includes digitally being there. Don’t slip on the close family email and hey, once in a while, send aunt Edith a hello too.

Respond to potential mentors
You want to work your way up. You are hoping to get noticed. Then you get copied on a mail from someone important and you don’t respond. #stopthemadness! Hit reply, change the subject and send a short note. Getting noticed can be hard but reaching out digitally can help you network. Remember though, important people get busy – don’t expect a response back. Chances are they are a boss (see point one) but they will read it eventually or at least remember that the young bright one from department x wrote them a note offering help as needed. Hello “new go to person”.

Get off mailing lists
I still have my first email account. I subscribed to school enewsletters and, when the Internet was young, I willingly shared my email address in the hope that irrelevant, never to be revisited store/ website x,y AND z would “add me to their important mailing list”. That’s where the 100 email messages to my personal accounts were born.

Be smarter than I was then. NEVER subscribe. Or do what I do now, unsubscribe to any mailing list email you have not read (and can recall) the last four messages from.

Oh yeah and silly rabbits out there – don’t give your work email to mailing lists! You want to be a boss one day – all those email messages should be from people that need you – not Victorias Secret. (I still subscribe to them though – hello Jammie’s!)

Oh yeah and last tip – add aunt Edith to my blogs subscription. After these tips I may lose some of you. 🙂


Do you have the context

January 4, 2012

Who are you talking to and what do they already know, feel or fear? As corporate communicators, it is our job to know the answers to these questions before even lifting a pen or typing the first letter of a comms plan. Even when you get the answers to these questions, without organizational history, understanding and, having worked within the company for more than a few months….your communicating without context is groundwork for project failure.

When starting at a company the best CEOs spend months simply listening and then work with teams to lay out 5 year plans in one year bite sized pieces. Your job is to chew on those pieces and create strategies with fellow employees to make these plans come to life. Don’t make the mistake to ignore historic views as, even the most disgruntled, über busy or apparently apathetic team member likely holds the key to the success of comms plans. Why? Communication without context is like giving a speech on the US national mall to Abe Lincoln’s statue – you’ll be do muni acting for communications sake. You need an audience to be engaged for your project to be successful and that takes time, understanding and a whole lot of time. So the next time you get a bright idea, ask yourself if you have the history, the pulse of a company and the support of those already communicating (or thinking they are) to ensure you have not just objectives and activities, but the context necessary for your comms plan to be a success.

Hugs. (read other posts for that context).

Who are you talking to?

April 6, 2011

Effective Presentations Are About the Audience - NOT The Presenter

We’ve all been there. Presentations FILLED with information that is probably important. The presentation seems so boring though you can’t focus beyond the introduction and spend most of the time checking out the presenter’s clothes, teeth, eyes, underwear etc rather than focusing on the content of the presentation. To those presenters who have suffered the audience XRAY (where the audience literally looks at you with more detail than even an x ray scanner), I suggest you ask yourself just ONE question before you prepare your next presentation – WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO? Oh and one more question – WHY SHOULD THEY CARE?

Far too often presentations are developed focused solely on the importance of the content to be conveyed. While this approach may seem prudent, and YES much detail should be focused on accuracy and presentation style, such an approach is less the effective. Why? Today, tomorrow and forever audience really care about the W.I.I.F.M. – What’s In It For Me. Thus, unless you take significant time to to analyze your audience considering who they are, what they care about and why they should care about they content your are presenting and THEN tweak your presentation to suit that audience, chances are they’ll just be focused on YOU and miss all the important stuff you over populated those power point slides with.

Basic pre-presentation questions (beyond the alleged one I said presenters should ask themselves):

  • Who is in the audience?
  • What are their main concerns/ interests/ hobbies?
  • Why should they care about what I am going to say?
  • What examples of interest to THEM can I draw upon to help make my points more clear?
  • What doubts are they likely to have about y subject matter?
  • What about me/ in the room is likely to distract the audience?
  • What statements will be most interesting to them?
  • What should I NOT say as it is likely to offend them?

These are just a few. Master presenters cater their ENTIRE presentation to the needs/wants/ desires to their audience. Be a master presenter. Start by just answering – WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?

Go be better communicators


Too Party or Not To Party?

October 14, 2010

It seems every other employee you talk to is NOT looking forward to the Holiday Season this year. Well, at least not in the office. As many companies faced what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most challenging 24 months in history, its seems the Office Holiday party is dead. But it seems to have been killed by those unaware of the importance of non-work oriented office gatherings to build camaraderie. AKA: the people that think Organizational Communication is important only when times are good and then wonder why morale is down JUST WHEN companies need employees to push the extra mile.

The office party is not a “fete” as we say in the Caribbean. It is more than a social gathering. It is an opportunity for colleagues to see each other in different lights – to realize that these “creeps” you “slave with” daily actually do have lives and reasons for working beyond simply to torture their colleagues. In these holiday events, we are often FORCED into non work conversation and, guess what? That’s a VERY important aspect to team building. Conversations like about children, camping, vacation, holiday plans, family traditions, retirement plans, traffic, house hunting, changes at home/government/store locations, shopping and gosh darn it even convos about how awful holiday parties are help employees LEARN ABOUT EACH OTHER. The more we know about each other, the more effectively we communicate. Our shared experiences improve communication (Schramm, 1955 – shared experience model). Improved communication = improved efficiency. Improved communication can equal happier employees. As the happy cow theory teaches us, all animals produce more when they are happy.

So, what if as a communicator you are faced with a company that has already cancelled their holiday gathering? Wake up light spark! It’s time to prove your worth! Organize an “in office” celebration – hell it could be a pot luck breakfast where everyone makes a dish. Or contact a local restaurant or bar to arrange an open bar for a cost and ask people if they are willing to have an unofficial celebration. Remember, organizational communication IS YOUR JOB (or WOK – as we say in the Caribbean). If the leaders don’t see the importance of a holiday gathering (or, maybe actually just can’t afford this year), work with your colleagues to make one happen – employee style!

Good luck Communopeeps! Oh and for those of you wondering why we are talking holidays so far from Hanukkah, Divali or Christmas – Communicators need to act early to make things happen. Most holiday parties are planned in the 2nd quarter of the year! 🙂

Social Media Training Class Post

August 4, 2010

Today I taught socialmedia to a group of colleagues. It was odd because I taught them abbreviations that I thought were common knowledge like POS but they thought POS meant Port of Spain when clearly it measn Parent Over Shoulder.

Feeling Special? Everyone Needs to

July 27, 2010

Remembering Small Things = Big Appreciation & Smiles

Communicators are inherently giving people . We are often the considerate ones and the people who feel guilty if they miss a call. We’re usually never too busy to talk – and if we are its because something major MUST be going on…but isn’t it weird – when its our time to need to talk how busy the world seems? You see, understanding the needs of others is part of our work, but few people understand us!

In addition to the all important work of communication strategies for multinational companies, we order the flowers, remember the birthdays, prompt bosses to remember the names of wives and children and of course, we order the end of year gifts and occasionally arrange parties. We are also usually chefs, party divas and social people. We give 400% and every now and then we end up feeling…well, needing to feel special.

There’s no harm in that. We’re good people (most of the time). We need to feel special too. So here’s a wish list on behalf of all communicators – well, most of them:

  • Learn our name and remember, yes, we DID study what we do…like there IS a communication degree!
  • Acknowledge our email messages – OMG the power of “noted”
  • Remember we exist outside of a crisis
  • Send us flowers
  • Remember the names of our kids, spouses or hell that we have not yet procreated and YES we know the clock is ticking but we’re totally ok with no kids because when we leave here sometimes all we want is hugs, alcohol and a massage (sometimes just the alcohol!)
  • Say thank you…

Those two words can make someone feel special. Three others are ” Are you ok”. Not sure of their power? Ask someone right now – I bet they feel better that you showed interest. Everyone needs to at some point – in and out of work


Make Time

July 22, 2010

Why can’t all managers be more like my dad. He had time for everything!

Without question my father is one of the greatest managers I have ever met. Indeed, the now retired, Hugo Mc Farlane (known as Mr. Mac to all who were not brave enough to call him what his kids do – Hugo!), epitomised what management means to me. You see, as a child, I remember visiting my dad’s office (to make PROPER USE of copy paper – who say paper planes???) and always seeing his door open. There were almost always people in his office and when there were not, he was in some employees office. In my younger days, I just figured dad was, well, popular. As I am older, I realise he was more than that – he was (and is) revered, respected and responsible. Its no suprise his agency (insurance) won award after award and he was in the paper for all kinds of boards and volunteer activities.

Ok – so who has time for all that talking right? Answer: if you want to be a manager – you need to make time.

Without a doubt the biggest lie “management” tells itself is that it “does not have time” for the employee complaints or concerns or for “teaching them their jobs”. We (yes we – I am a manager too), get frustrated when coworkers don’t know subject verb agreement, are late for meetings, or send you documents to review with short notice.  WE roll our eyes, shake heads, ignore emails or worse….close our doors to “THEM” because “WE” have more work today. If you are a manager like that, you have a problem. MAKE TIME TO CHANGE:

TIP 1: Change your language losers!  If you refer to coworkers as employees, lower level staff, general staff or them/they you may as well say – slaves/ minions/ etc. At Apple, people call Steve Jobs “Steve”. They send him email and he writes back. He blogs. Everyone goes to work in casual dress. The result? Quarter after Quarter of amazing financial results and a brand that is defining what generation Y and Z refer to as cool.

TIP 2: Take a moment to listen. Ok. You have client meetings, deadlines and hell a life beyond the office. Guess what? Two minutes from your life to listen to a coworker won’t through everything off schedule. Often, in the 2 minutes it takes for the coworker to ask you a question, they probably answer it themselves and, if not, guess what? In 1 minute, you can get them going to find the answer themselves or help nurture a future top performing employee. At the very least, coworkers may hate you a microbit less if you let them talk for 2 minutes AND you actually appear to listen…Guess what? That person is a lot more likely to work late, forgoing a family event or drink with buddies if they feel you actually care about them and cherish their contribution to YOUR success. Gee – see what 2 minutes can do?

TIP 3: Remember the power of a conversation. WAIT! Don’t hit send on that email! Extend arm. Pick up receiver and have a phone call. OMG – SHOCK someone with this sure fire recipe to make your coworkers think you might actually NOT live in a crypt! Get off your chair and go visit their work space! Knock before you enter (even on a cubicle wall). Make a positive comment when you arrive there and then begin your conversation. End with something positive too. This recipe will yield a productive conversation and a bit more respect from a coworker. Imagine all that from NOT sending an email – who figured!  

TIP 4: Freakin be human. If you pass by someones office, say freakin good morning or afternoon or even a simple hey. Break your neck and make eye contact. You’d be surprized how far a little face to face humanity can go in an office that is increasingly PC (or MAC) screen driven.

TIP 5: Make time to live. You make time for a guilty pleasure somewhere in your day right? Jeez I hope so. If you’re at work before dawn and leave after dark every day and you still don’t have time…If you never have time to read “their” email, find out about “their” issues or attend yet another of “their” meetings….If you can’t remember the last time you gave somebody a hug (or received one) or the last time someone told you thank you OR the last time you made someone smile… Your tight ass is probably getting bigger and your personal life probably sucks. Get a damn life losers. Start it by “scheduling”  time for yourself and for those closest to you. Schedule a “Team retreat” (ie: 2 hours of freakin ice cream on a Monday afternoon ‘just because’) to help your team bond beyond the computer screen. ‘Schedule’ a random act of kindness – shock ’em and send them home early one Friday afternoon because you want them to ‘appreciate life on the outside’ – you’d be surprised. Making that time and those sacrifices…you might wake up calmer just like Mr. Mac.