Allow your personality to shine through! Part 2

July 28, 2008

Role Model by Joan Hasselman

In my last post, I gave you one good reason why you, as a leader, should reveal your personality when you talk to your stakeholders. As if that weren’t convincing enough, here’s another benefit of letting the real you shine through:

“When you want your values to guide the organization, you need more than carefully articulated words. The more you reveal your personality, the more your people will see you’re a whole person, understand what you really mean and then, like you, demonstrate those values in their thoughts and actions. If you communicate candor in your own personal way, you will provide the model your organization needs — to follow the leader. People get values from people, not from statements.”

Again, this idea belongs to Anett D. Grant, and I love it because it’s so true. To be effective, be genuine with your people to demonstrate that you expect authenticity from others as well. Here’s a terrific instance in which the most effective communication is allowing your actions to speak for you.

At least one more post on this… see you then.


Allow your personality to shine through! — Part 1

July 25, 2008
Karen Combs quilt Inner Glow

Karen Combs quilt Inner Glow


I found a very compelling argument that explains why you, as a leader, should reveal your personality when you talk to your stakeholders, whether they are employees, shareholders, customers or community members. I’m tackling this is three parts, and here’s the first:


Reveal your personality to inspire trust.

“When you work closely with people, one-on-one or in small groups, you establish trust in a natural, evolutionary way. But as your span increases, relationship-building over months transforms into impression-making in just a few minutes. Rather than having your people get to know you and then trust you, your people have to feel they know you and then trust you. By revealing your personality, moving from official to authentic, you will be able to establish that feeling, and build trust.”

This idea belongs to Anett D. Grant, whose executive speaking program was highly praised by my PR professor. He shared one of her speeches* as a model of effective speech construction, but the content itself is what captured my attention, obviously!

Managers, how many of you find yourselves in this situation? Many of you are lucky enough to build those relationships with teams over time. But for those of you out there whose span has increased a bit, how are you making it work? My next two posts — at least — will cover more on allowing your personality to shine through. See ya then.

* Note: If this speech has a home online, I’ve been unable to find it. I have a Word doc I’d share with anyone who wants it, complete with Ms. Grant’s copyright.

Another aside: Anyone who digs the image above should check out the work of Karen Combs, whose quilts are like none I’ve seen.

Why simple conversations are worth your time

July 24, 2008

Conversations by Louisa Bufardeci

Last week, my co-worker who leads our manager development program made the case that managers should invest their time initiating and continuing conversations with their team members, both as a team and as individuals. More than just chit-chat (although that’s important, too), he advocated enlightening conversations because managers have a chance to:

  • find and answer questions
  • clarify ambiguity
  • provide important detail
  • help advance projects and meet deadlines
  • ensure your team is moving toward the same goals

Of course, because conversation is a two-way exchange, there are benefits for the employees on your team as well. They will appreciate the opportunity to:

  • ask questions
  • share their insights and concerns
  • help improve how your team completes its work

Enabling these critical conversations is one of a leader’s greatest responsibilities. Because, if you think about it, most problems can be resolved through effective communication, and most innovations begin with conversation. The key is always keeping in mind the two-way exchange: both talking and actively listening.

Here’s a secret to manager success

July 21, 2008

I care a lot about employees. I’m not a manager, I don’t have a team of people reporting to me. But as a professional communicator, I am always thinking about the employees who will read our messages. What will they think? How will they feel? What will they do? Will what I’m about to say help them feel connected to the organization… or not?

This thought process naturally means that employee engagement is looming large on my radar screen these days. Corporate America could accomplish so much, employees could be so happy / satisfied / passionate about what they’re doing… if only we could engage them.

So here’s an idea, courtesy of Tim Wright at Culture to Engage. His recent post, To Ask Is To Answer Is To Ask, shares the secret of one of his best managers. You should read his whole post, but here’s the punchline. Just add this one question to your repertoire:

What questions do you have for me?

Genius! Notice how it assumes employees have questions, because they do. If you start asking this enough, people will start to answer. They’ll save up their questions because they’ll know their opportunity is coming soon. Then, provided you Shut up and listen, you will have started a conversation. And that, folks, is employee engagement. It’s fast, it’s easy, it will cost you nothing — and yet there’s so much to gain.

Leadership = Sharing Information

July 16, 2008

Yesterday Chris Brogan posted Am I Too Naked in reaction to a comment from a potential customer. She expressed doubt that Chris could offer anything more as a paid consultant because he shares so much free information on his blog.

This reminds me of one of my favorite takeaways from a book called The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner. They say:

“Leaders accept and act on the paradox of power; you become more powerful when you give your own power away” (251).

Think about that for a sec. Does the idea knock you out? It should. There are so many people out there hoarding their knowledge, hoarding their information, jealously guarding their intellectual talent. Sure, that’s one way to go. I see what they’re up to: “I want everyone to think I’m irreplaceable. I want to be the only person who knows how to do this! Because if someone else knows it, they might threaten my position. I could lose some of my power… and I don’t want that!!”

This thinking is just plain wrong. In Chris’s case, he never would have met that skeptical would-be customer if it weren’t for the information he shared on his blog. By consistently posting intelligent, useful information, he demonstrates himself as a resource, a font of knowledge that seemingly doesn’t dry up. Does she really think there’s not more where that came from?

What if managers and leaders embraced this model of sharing information? I can think of so many ways that sharing your knowledge and power with your team could benefit you:

  • Establish a common language / pool of knowledge
  • Cross-train employees
  • Boost productivity
  • Streamline processes
  • Improve service
  • Decrease the chances of duplicated work or effort
  • Increase satisfaction with the outcome
  • Avoid misunderstandings / confusion

What else? There must be success stories out there from managers who “give away their power.” I’d sure love to read some.

Ask a different question.

July 14, 2008

Another lightbulb moment to report, courtesy of the Heath brothers. I’m reading their chapter in Made to Stick about making your ideas unexpected. And then they go and shift my paradigm with this:

“To make our communications more effective, we need to shift our thinking from “What information do I need to convey?” to “What questions do I want my audience to ask?” [p. 88]

The main differences in these questions, of course, are that:

  • the first focuses on the monologue, the blah-blah-blah.
  • and the second seeks dialogue. Conversation, that is — interaction.

Everyone’s asking why employees aren’t engaged — isn’t it possible they’re not engaged because we’re not engaging them? We’re not giving them the chance to ask the questions they want to ask, directly and free from unnecessary filters. Everyone’s asking how to fight the grapevine — isn’t it possible the best way to fight rumors and gossip is with facts? Why aren’t we talking with employees? Why aren’t we being more serious about this?

As a communicator it’s often frustrating that I can’t personally do more to affect employee engagement. But this new question to ask myself may be the way I can contribute: What questions do I want my audience to ask? I might have to approach my writing and communications planning in a whole different way.

The planets align to tell me things… occasionally.

July 12, 2008

Tonight I discovered that you can still have a revelation every now and then even when you’re exhausted (or is it because you’re exhausted?). Anyway, I just hopped on Facebook to catch up with my cousin who lives in London, only I didn’t make it that far. I actually stopped dead in my tracks when I glanced at one of my “silly” apps: Chinese Astrology! I share this with you — what it said today for my sign, “The Wood Rabbit” — because it seems so relevant to communicating:

“You’ll probably be sad, disenchanted, without daring to show it, and inclined to give up everything. You must absolutely find ways to relax; the most simple and certainly one of the most efficient ones is contact with nature. You’ll above all try to consolidate what you’ve got or still to improve your material and professional situation by only taking carefully calculated risks. Beware of tough sentimental storms, of risks of frustration, disputes, rupture, of turmoils of all kinds; to avoid all this, only one solution: try to be as tolerant and understanding as possible.”*

*Emphasis mine, because this is important!

OK, now aside for some sloppy writing there in the middle part (lost in translation?), this message needs to be my horoscope every day. Don’t we all feel disheartened about our work sometimes? Don’t we all have times when we just need to step back, relax and sever our emotional ties from our professional situations? This is definitely a goal of mine, one I struggle with more frequently than I’d like.

But the big message that shines through is obvious (mostly because I put it in bold letters and put an asterisk by it!). Tolerance and understanding. It’s as simple — and as difficult — as that. Can you imagine what would happen if we all made that our mantra?

Hhhmmm. There I go with the Kumbaya again. Leave me alone, it’s been a long week.