Several years ago as a leader, I got my hand smacked about an email in which I added a touch of effervescent witticism. It was appreciated by my staff, but not my director.
In the very large organization it was not uncommon for updates to fail leaving my staff completely frustrated. During staff meetings and one-on-ones we began adding humor while implementing contingency plans to make the best during these situations.
An update was not successful and another was schedule, I sent out an email to my staff to keep them apprised of time-frames and the situation. The problem is I added a sentence with something similar to “I know you are surprised” after the not working part.
My biggest mistake (and there was more than one) was not realizing my audience was not only those on the email list.
It was a poor reflection of me as a leader supporting another team and the organization as a whole. My communication was not consistent or positive for all who could have seen this communication.
I was young at the time and had a good director. I took appropriate action and accountability. it was a good lesson.
Some companies and representatives do not get the benefit of good coaching or bad mistakes that are good lessons.
I heard a reminder of this and of not being aware of your audience and the misalignment of communication.
There are parts of the south that have experienced quite a winter storm after the holidays. During the weeks of December 26th and January 2nd most services in one small town were pushed back at least a day due to holidays.
The winter storm closed schools, government offices and businesses everywhere and created an even greater delay to some services effectively cancelling them for a week. Ice covered streets made travel extremely dangerous.
One of these services was trash service, which is provided by a contractor to the town. Many residents passed their trashcans at the end of their driveway day after day for nearly six days after the originally expected delayed pick up date. Then they received communication.
A voicemail was recorded by a representative of the municipality and sent to all customers.
This was the good part – there was communication.
Here is the not so good part – the communication itself.
- It detailed, in length, the timing of the holiday, how that week and the prior trash had been delayed due to the holidays and in even more detail the storm that hit the town.
- The representative’s statement threw the service provider under the bus. It was stated that: “we are at the mercy of the service provider, so to speak”. The provider’s name was used only when speaking despairingly about them.
- It was pretty easy to surmise that the communication came after numerous calls, questions or complaints about the trash not being picked up, that frustration came through.
- Nearly a minute into the voicemail the most important elements came to fruition: the new collection dates, ability to handle two weeks worth and credit for the missed week.
- Not only was it was nearly a minute and half long (I am wondering how many listened to the entire message) the tone and delivery was very, very casual.
I believe the communication was to inform and ease. Yet the delivery and dialog delivered a different message: stop calling us, it is not our fault.
If the intent was to address 98% of the complaints, there was a better way. I say 98% because there will always be about 2% who will still complain no matter what you do.
A positive impact could have been had by simply stating: “Due to the holidays and recent winter storm, our service provider delayed trash service for the safety of their employees and those in our community. You will receive a credit for last week and they will resume pick up on X and Y dates with the ability to pick up any additional trash caused by the missed week. Thank you for your patience and understanding, we and the service provider apologize for any inconvenience.”
In twenty seconds this addresses the majority of concerns while demonstrating professionalism , courtesy and appreciation.
When crafting a message we do not always know our entire audience.
If it is an informative message there may be others that the communication touches than the original distribution.
If it is a blanket message (websites, LinkedIn profiles, biographies etc.) the audience is limitless.
If it is a reactionary message, there may be more than one concern. The other thing about reactionary messaging is that it is very easy to slip into blame mode or be a bit testy. Neither is appropriate and either or both will not be viewed well by your audience.
For a more positive, impactful communication, keep these points in mind:
- There will be the 2%’ers who will not be satisfied or will complain, not a lot you can do about that.
- Even though there may be one glaring issues or topic, there may be underlying concerns. Your communication should be holistic to cover beyond the most obvious, but not the realm of minute possibilities. In other words, look at it again before you send it out, could there be another concern, are you addressing to many and diluting your message?
- Speak to the entire possible audience. This means you may have to be less personalized in order to effectively communicate the entire message. Remember throwing in a quip – one group of the audience was okay with it, another was not.
- If it is a message representing an organization, the voice of the organization should prevail, not an individual.
- Do not throw anyone under the bus. It does not make you look better by making them look worse.
- Be brief when you can to maintain the attention of your audience and not dilute your points.
Communication in every form is a representation of the organization, teams and individuals.
For the greatest positive impact, your communication must align in both message and delivery for every person it touches. Reevaluating before distribution can mean the difference between engagement and disengagement of your audience; even those you do not know are listening.
As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.
Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.
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