Does your work add value?

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Only half of communicators say all their work is aligned to corporate strategy and goals.

I developed a benchmarking database (covers 81 organizations, across 10 countries, with approximately 390,000 employees) of communication practices, and the link to organizational performance by identifying the #11ways communicators can contribute to performance. It turns out that high-performing organizations (compared to average ones), are:

  • Twice as likely to keep language simple and jargon-free
  • 80% more likely to have a process for creating great corporate stories.
  • Twice as likely to make emotional connections to their audiences
  • 60% more likely to think about communication from the audience perspective.

The idea was to develop a database to explore the connections between communication practices and organizational performance, and answer questions like: “what are the common communication practices that have an impact on performance? And are there things that communicators do which actually contribute to organizational under-performance?”Three in particular stood out:

The know-it-all leader and the know-a-little communicator?

Half of organizations say that corporate messages are generally devised by senior executives, potentially relegating the communications team to the role of a paper-boy or paper-girl: just delivering the message.

Indeed, some communications departments are referred to the SOS team : “Send Out Stuff”. If corporate leaders are devising the messages they’d better be good at it, but only 20% of benchmarked organizations think their leaders are good at communicating. There must be a lot of horrible communications going on. Or, as one organization anonymously told us: “Executives that think they know how to communicate with employees, but don’t!”

So it seems that executives should listen to communicators’ advice more. But only a third of communicators admitted that their level of business know-how and understanding was high.

Two-thirds of communicators, we therefore suggest, need to improve their business understanding if they want to advise business people. Repeat: only a third of communicators admitted to knowing their own business. No wonder they don’t feel listened to.

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How to become a better communicator through compassionate communication

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Communication is based on stories. Often communication is about MY STORY: what happened to me, what I feel, and what I want. As an expatriate, my approach to communication was indelibly impacted by 8 years working and living in emerging and non-western countries. These are countries where I experienced absolute highs and lows, rare in the comfortable West, forcing me to consider how I really interact with people.

The expatriate experience magnifies what happens in our home country, but we normally can’t see it happening. As a result, I’ve been learning to take my experience and make my communication more compassionate wherever I live.

Compassion comes from the Greek “to love together with”. So Compassionate Communication is about talking alongside someone, rather than talking to them; about entering into their frame mind, rather than trying to get them into mine; about finding ways that we are the same, rather than different. It’s about ANOTHERS’ STORY and less about MY STORY.

Compassionate communication came to me as an expatriate because of:

  • Working alongside others who haven’t had the same education or experience, which helped me show rather than tell. The well-known quote says, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
  • Learning new languages, which helped me see similarities rather than just differences. Goethe writes, “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own”.
  • Experiencing new values, which helped me see those which overlap and influence mine. Martin Luther King Jr writes, “All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality…. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”

Compassionate communication is about understanding more than being understood and loving more than being loved.

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