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I’m often asked to create communications plans to support various initiatives. With enough understanding of the initiative (reading through a few presentations etc.), and a quick size-up of the leadership, I can generally create a draft plan with key messages, proposed platforms, key stakeholders, talking points, calendar, blah blah blah and etc.

However experience has taught me that the key to the success of any plan is ensuring absolute clarity of the goal – as in ‘what’s the goal of this plan?’ What exactly am I being asked to achieve? Greater transparency? Employee buy in? Deeper understanding? Overall engagement? All of these and then some?

You’ll find as you pose this question directly that very often your leader/client will struggle with a crisp answer. Sometimes they simply don’t know. I mean, they know they need to ‘get the word out’ but they don’t know really, specifically, what they’re trying to achieve. That’s where you/I become invaluable. It’s up to us to provide the right guidance and demonstrate the power of targeted communication. Use this question to engage in a dialogue about their challenges, their vision and their needs and together agree on the most effective way to leverage communication to achieve their desired results.

Then, once that question is answered and the plan is agreed, establish a clear way to measure your progress towards the goal. Let us never forget…”The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  Damn straight.  Thanks Uncle George.

When trying to engage employees and managers on people topics, why on earth don’t more people leverage The Office?  Personally, I prefer the original BBC version.  Ricky Gervais is so genius.

The exchange captured in this clip is obviously hilarious.   However in the midst of the hilarity, I think there are some key takeaways that can be taken as Performance Review core principles:

  • Make sure employees truly understand the performance process. Many times this is taken for granted.
  • Make self assessment questions mean something. Sometimes, frankly, they’re useless questions that employees find difficult to correlate to their day to day reality. Why not get employees involved in helping to craft them?
  • There should very few surprises during official performance discussions. As spoofed in this clip – David is unaware of how clueless Kevin is, and Kevin seems completely unaware of what a performance review actually is.
  • At the end of the day, it’s really the conversation that matters.  Forms and periodic mandatory processes can’t replace a good manager/employee relationship that’s based on ongoing communication and respect.

So my suggestion is this – when you’re about to kick off a Performance Review period, share this (or another) clip to set the stage.  Use it either during an in-person session like a town hall or via the web on your intranet – and begin your team conversation around Performance Management best practices.

Oh, also, here’s a link to a Performance Review Template (and related stuff) thanks to Inc. Magazine.   After all, you have to start somewhere, right?

Seth Godin posted a great list of ways to generate blog traffic – I’m perusing and think I’m on the right track. So much to learn!

Props to Seth for this…

• Use lists.
• Be topical… write posts that need to be read right now.
• Learn enough to become the expert in your field.
• Break news.
• Be timeless… write posts that will be readable in a year.
• Be among the first with a great blog on your topic, then encourage others to blog on the same topic.
• Share your expertise generously so people recognize it and depend on you.
• Announce news.
• Write short, pithy posts.
• Encourage your readers to help you manipulate the technorati top blog list.
• Don’t write about your cat, your boyfriend or your kids.
• Write long, definitive posts.
• Write about your kids.
• Be snarky. Write nearly libelous things about fellow bloggers, daring them to
respond (with links back to you) on their blog.
• Be sycophantic. Share linklove and expect some back.
• Include polls, meters and other eye candy.
• Tag your posts. Use del.ico.us.
• Coin a term or two.
• Do email interviews with the well-known.
• Answer your email.
• Use photos. Salacious ones are best.
• Be anonymous.
• Encourage your readers to digg your posts. (and to use furl and reddit).
Do it with every post.
• Post your photos on flickr.
• Encourage your readers to subscribe by RSS.
• Start at the beginning and take your readers through a months-long education.
• Include comments so your blog becomes a virtual water cooler that feeds itself.
• Assume that every day is the beginning, because you always have new readers.
• Highlight your best posts on your Squidoo lens.
• Point to useful but little-known resources.
• Write about stuff that appeals to the majority of current blog readers–like
gadgets and web 2.0.
• Write about Google.
• Have relevant ads that are even better than your content.
• Don’t include comments, people will cross post their responses.
• Write posts that each include dozens of trackbacks to dozens of
blog posts so that people will notice you.
• Run no ads.
• Keep tweaking your template to make it include every conceivable
bell or whistle.
• Write about blogging.
• Digest the good ideas of other people, all day, every day.
• Invent a whole new kind of art or interaction.
• Post on weekdays, because there are more readers.
• Write about a never-ending parade of different topics so you don’t
bore your readers.
• Post on weekends, because there are fewer new posts.
• Don’t interrupt your writing with a lot of links.
• Dress your blog (fonts and design) as well as you would dress yourself
for a meeting with a stranger.
• Edit yourself. Ruthlessly.
• Don’t promote yourself and your business or your books or your projects
at the expense of the reader’s attention.
• Be patient.
• Give credit to those that inspired, it makes your writing more useful.
• Ping technorati. Or have someone smarter than me tell you how to do
it automatically.
• Write about only one thing, in ever-deepening detail, so you become definitive.
• Write in English.
• Better, write in Chinese.
• Write about obscure stuff that appeals to an obsessed minority.
• Don’t be boring.
• Write stuff that people want to read and share.

Here’s an invite from Marshall Goldsmith for an upcoming (and free) teleforum on leadership.  I’ve participated in forums such as this in the past and they are absolutely worth the time. I really try not to miss these when they’re offered.

————————————-

Marshall Goldsmith and Patricia Wheeler invite you to a Thought Leader Teleforum on Thursday, September 23rd at 1 PM Eastern time.

Please join us for a Thought Leader TeleForum on Thursday September 23rd on “The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter, Facts You Need to Know” with Jim Kouzes and Patricia Wheeler.

In these turbulent times, when the very foundations of organizations and societies are being shaken, leaders need to move beyond the pessimistic predictions, the trendy fads, and the simplistic solutions. They need to turn to what’s real and what’s proven, to understand what the evidence tells us about how exemplary leaders get extraordinary things done.

Join us as Patricia and Jim discuss ten fundamental truths about leadership that drive successful leadership in our current marketplace.

This 60-minute Teleforum will cover the following points, plus field your specific questions:

1. What are the must-know differences about the CONTEXT of leadership today?

2. What are the must-know differences about the CONTENT of leadership today?

3. What truths of leadership that successful leaders should embrace?

Jim Kouzes is the Dean’s Executive Professor of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University. A highly regarded leadership scholar and experienced executive, The Wall Street Journal has named Jim as one of the ten best executive educators in the U.S. He and Barry Posner are the award winning authors of bestselling The Leadership Challenge, which has sold over 1.8 million copies; they have published seventeen books and over 50 training products.

Patricia Wheeler is Managing Partner of The Levin Group, a leadership advisory and executive coaching firm. Her clients range from global Fortune 500 organizations to mid-cap companies, and she has spent 20 years coaching and consulting with senior leaders. Articles by and about Patricia have been published in Business Week, Leadership Excellence, Capital Magazine, and HR.com. She is a contributor to Best Practices in Organizational Development and the AMA Handbook of Leadership.

There is no charge for this TeleForum, which will be held at 10 AM Pacific/1 PM Eastern time on Thursday September 23rd. Please click here to register. If this link does not work in your browser, you may cut and paste the following URL: http://www.LeadingNews.org/signupgc.htm.

To adjust for international time zones, you can visit World Time Converter

If you have further questions, please contact Lori Glover at +01 858 382-4687.

We look forward to your participation!

Patricia and Marshall

If you are NOT following Inc Magazine on Twitter (@IncMagazine) please do yourself a favor and do so toot sweet.  Their Tweets are awesome and soooo useful in ways you really don’t realize until you read some of the articles they point you to and then you say, hey wow, I can use that.

Here are a few recent links that I thought were uniquely useful: 

Confidentiality Agreement for Employees   (Note:  view it for free, but buy it for $19 US)

Five Things You Can Learn From Your Receptionist   (I can think of more than 5 but its a start!)

How to Fill a Job Nobody Wants   (Are there actual jobs that nobody wants these days?)

Three Things to Never Say on Twitter  (So simple really, but think of your younger staff members – grads etc – this wouldn’t hurt as a reminder when discussing the value of a person brand.)

What are some constructive ways to give negative feedback    (I really like some of the reader comments posted to this question on their Ask Inc. feature.  Managers can always use a fresh perspective and fresh language on how to do stuff they would rather avoid!)

Oooh and a quick shout out to Business Week for this article:  Workers of the World Unite      It highlights how various companies are investing big dollars on collective intelligence tools that allow them to tap their employees to help solve corporate challenges.  Sooo interesting to dweebs like me.

Joanie  (Twitterable on @joanierobi)

My boss just quit. Well actually my boss’ boss – the head of our organization. However, as it often happens with this type of job – I really worked mostly, directly, for him.

It’s sad. I’ve liked working with him a lot and hopefully, one day, I’ll have the chance to do so again.  And so, the title of this post…thanks to Dr. Seuss.

Anywhoo – the truth is I’ve been through this so many times before its getting pretty familiar. This time though it honestly feels a little different and it’s causing me to reflect on what tends to happen to ‘the people stuff’ after a change such as this, or I should say on what I anticipate and speculate will happen.

More often than not I (you?) build a ‘people’ strategy around a particular leader or leadership team to help support and achieve their goals, while at the same time hopefully applying the right influence to assure my strategy takes into account what’s best for their teams. So as things get sorted out following my recent change in leadership (as they inevitably will) it’s all got me thinking about how past incidents ended up affecting all my past work.

Many times it’s all gotten chucked either because the new leadership didn’t believe in investing too much time and energy into ‘people’ (too warm and fuzzy etc). Or maybe they had their own ‘people’ person who needed to put their own stamp and spin on the work. Or sometimes they were actually  impressed with what I achieved but wanted things built around them rather than their predecessor and so, guess what? I had to chuck most of it anyway.

I understand that it’s the nature of this type work to align with whatever the strategy of the moment tends to be, but it’s still difficult to deal with the challenge when the inevitable inevitably comes. I mean despite the ongoing potential for change at the top shouldn’t employees be able to count on SOME constancy? After all why should they believe the next vision statement, the next set of values, or frankly anything you say if the message is always going to change? I suppose the question really is what if anything should I do differently the next time. Here’s what I’m thinking…

As far as the next people program strategy goes – I think it will be important to focus on some non-negotiables. Those platforms and key messages that should never change and that eventually become the touchstone of any current or future program. Key ‘vanilla’ cultural messages such as ‘teamwork’ and platforms such as a team intranet should become staple foundational components. I’ll also focus on a calendar that gets adhered to despite the leadership – ie weekly team updates, quarterly townhalls etc. Things such as publishing lots of team photos is another type of activity that can be a staple despite the leadership, and can help to keep a culture constant and stable. I’m honestly lax in this area, but going forward I’m going to enlist employee volunteers to make the effort a bit easier on my strained bandwith.

Oh and if you’re the newbie and taking over for someone else on the people stuff, take the time to analyze results and don’t trash or reinvent stuff that seems to be working. Remember the more continuity you can maintain the better – so borrow with pride when you can.

After some more thought, I’m sure I’ll come up with more ideas – but I guess the point is to ensure this kind of thinking remains at the forefront going forward. I suppose at the end of the day the messages will always change, and the platforms will always need to be tweaked as necessary to make your particular leadership shine – but if you and I manage to keep some constant and impactful pieces of our programs intact from leadership team to leadership team we may have a hope of retaining functional integrity when the messages do inevitably change, and of creating a bit of stability for our folks in the midst of the chaos and uncertainty.  At the very least, I’m going to try.

September 2010
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