Social Confusion

We are all in the communication business today whether we like it or not. If that is the case shouldn’t we place a greater emphasis on great communicators when we decide who to hire in or promote to senior or executive levels?

In certain sectors insurance, banking, asset management and private equity a belief has existed in many quarters that there is little or no need to communicate beyond a bare minimum outside of their key constituents – shareholders, investors, clients, employees, business partners and regulators.

Indeed, many market leaders have such strong and powerful brands that business “walks in the door” with minimal marketing investment (Munich Re, Goldman Sachs, MAN or Blackstone). These firms are the exception but the need to be outstanding communicators is no less.

What communication skills and volition should you be looking for, nurturing or developing in a market-leading business:

1. Superb language skills – it is not sufficient to simply be able to talk impressively about the “content” of your firm, market or industry (“what you do”). You must be able to explain in simple practical steps the “how”, the process of improving your clients, shareholders and the wider public’s well-being. You must provide relevant and interesting examples, use metaphors intelligently and share impressive insights that are highly relevant to the listener.

2. Ability to Control the Discussion  – you must have superb communication skills to move the conversation naturally towards your intended goal. Knowing at all times where you are in the conversation and what you must say or do next.

3. The Discussion Must Move the Relationship Forward – in most case it is insufficient to simply make demands, you must create an empathy with the listener in your social interaction and intellectual agreement such that they realise that THEIR best interests are served by following your advice. You don’t have to be liked but you most definitely have to be respected.

4. The Relationship Must Discernibly Be Generating Results – those results don’t have to be tangible, indeed the intangible (greater peace of mind or personal security) or peripheral results (promotion, new opportunity or referral) that arise from following your advice might be even more valuable. However there must be a discernible benefit for both parties otherwise why invest time talking in the first place? I observe that this realisation comes as a shock to many seasoned managers and client facing people when they are challenged about the return on their time invested in daily activities.

Many businesses are in what I term a state of “social confusion”. A great many people confusing a desire for greater levels of affiliation with their key constituents and meaningful conversations. The result is excessive internal meetings, email threads and daily interruption. There is a fear amongst many people about addressing the issue (a fear of being unfriendly, dictatorial, disrespectful and so on). That is why this is a leadership issue.

Leaders set the expectations and hold others to account. Only leaders can rapidly resolve the confusion so long as their own behaviour is consistent with the behaviour they are demanding from their subordinates.

People talk about great orators being born, in business, superb language and communication skills can be readily honed. That pre-supposes you agree it is your priority.

Copyright James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.








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