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How to communicate tough strategic decisions to your stakeholders?


Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to layoff someone? Or imagine yourself in a situation like Yahoo!, when their CEO resigned and no one knew where the company was going. How would you have handled that situation as a leader? No matter how hard you try to keep your employees safe from the corporate decisions at the top, sometimes those decisions will affect your employees regardless of your efforts. So, how will you handle those situations? In this blog, I will provide you with few pointers through which you can communicate these tough decisions to your employees very easily.

Announcement meeting: After a decision has been made, the communication to the outside world and the larger community of workers has to be handled with firmness, transparency and candor. Let’s say, your CEO resigned, and you only communicated the news through an e-mail. Chances are……….your employees will have lot of questions about the company’s future, and there is no interactive way to address those concerns. Thus, I would recommend you to have a conference call (or a meeting) with your line managers, before various rumors start churning. And yeah! While doing this, provide them the opportunity to ask their questions. Answers to their questions will make your strategy clear in their minds, and hence, they would be able to communicate that to their employees very easily. Encourage all of your line managers to have a quick sync-up meeting with their employees to communicate this decision with their employees. If possible, have a company-wide hands-on meeting 2-3 days afterwards.

Communicate with media: Imagine, if your company had a big layoff, and you heard about this news from the media. How will you feel in that situation? In the similar manner, your employees will feel cheated, if they heard this kind of a news from the media, instead from their supervisor. And hence, it is very important to communicate these decisions within your organization, before you go public. News conferences and news releases should be given only after talking with the staff . The staff should not read about it first in the media. You need to also make sure that the media doesn’t hear about this news from the grapevine. Thus, you should keep a very small time difference between notifying this news to your employees and the media.

Notify other stakeholders: If you are laying off few people, then you might want to talk with relevant governmental agencies to notify them about the decision. If your company buys any kind of an unemployment insurance, then you definitely want to make calls to those insurance providers for notifying them about the situation. If your decision is affecting any of your commitments to your customers, you might want to talk to them immediately. Obviously, you need to notify your customers, suppliers and the community leaders through an e-mail and/or a conference call. And yeah! Don’t forget to define your future plans in your communication. I have seen many notification e-mails with the description of the problem without any clear path for the future. So, do yourself a favor, and define your future path before you go ahead with any of these communications.

I hope, these tips will help you to communicate any tough strategic decisions to your stakeholders. If you have any other ideas through which we can communicate these kind of news through transparency and sensitivity, then please feel to share it with me here.

Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Where will you use written communication over in-person communication?


DocumentsI recently opened up my Google+ account like any other tech fanatic. And one of the feature that got my attention was – Google’s Hangout. I have never seen more than 4 users video chatting at the same time without a premium account (whatever service it maybe). Though this hangout feature got my attention, I don’t think that today’s generation of SMSs and Tweets will use this feature extensively. I might be wrong, people might use this technology extensively and we might find a new generation of “Hangouters”. But this is too soon to predict anything. The only thing that I can say with confidence is – why people prefer SMSs, Tweets, and e-mails instead of in-person talk, phone calls, and meetings. Following are few situations, where people would rather prefer written communication over in-person communication.

Language barrier: As a part of my job, I manage various individuals from different locations. One of the team that reports to me is located in China. While they are very intelligent and technically sound, they have one short coming of speaking English properly. They normally understand my pronunciation of English, but I mostly have a hard time in listing their English pronunciation. Even after closely listening, I miss some sentences. Thus, I prefer to talk to them through Live Messenger instead of through a video conference. This gives me the opportunity to understand them better, while this gives them the opportunity to consume the data, translate it into their native language (through Google translator), and respond me back.

Broadcasting: Written communication is also useful during information broadcasting. For example: if I am having my birthday party, I would rather post it on my Tweeter feeds, Facebook or Google+’s feeds instead of calling everyone to come. And why not? I don’t need to repeat the same message to everyone on the phone. And I can also get the count of expected attendees at my party through these event’s page.

Record keeping: With information overload in today’s world, people tend to forget things which you might have mentioned to them few weeks ago. Thus, most of people like me, tends to follow-up through e-mail. According to me, e-mail is the best way to keep records of your conversation. For example: Let’s say, I talk to “Joe” regarding some IT issue over the phone and he tells me that he will get back to me on next Monday. If I wouldn’t have followed-up with an e-mail explaining the problem, I had to explain him the problem again on Monday. If I would have e-mailed him the details then I can just forward that e-mail and ask the status of this issue. He can then look at the information in the e-mail and find the status of the issue without wasting my or his time.

Speed: Sometimes, people just don’t like to talk in-person for smaller talks. For example: Let’s say, I have just talked to my colleague to see if he is interested in coming to a BBQ at my house. And he told me that he will get back to me today, but he forgot to respond. I would rather SMS him to ask his answer instead of calling him. If I call him, I don’t have anything to say because I just talked to him not long ago. But I still want his answer. So, I will just get SMS him to find his answer. This will be much more quicker and time efficient.

People’s availability: This is a really big question in today’s world. 6/10 times, I want to talk to someone, but I can’t find their free time. Thus, I always end up writing them an e-mail or texting them on their mobile. There can be various reasons for this issue, from time zone differences to their prior commitments to work or personal events. But when I use written communication instead of oral communication, they have the time to consume the information and then respond back to me on their free time. In this way, I don’t put someone in a weird situation by calling them during their working hours.

I hope these tips might have given you some pointers about where to use written communication instead of in-person communication. If you know any other situations where written communication will be preferred over in-person communication then do let me know. I am always looking for people’s feedback to improve my knowledge. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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What would you do when your e-mail backfires?


In today’s world, almost everyone communicates through e-mails, SMS, or twitter. While these communication channels have made it faster and easier to convey our messages, it took out the human element from the communication. Thus, sometimes our messages are interpreted differently. Hence, we need to make sure that our messages are conveyed to the right people, and their interpretation of that message is same as our interpretation of the same message.

If we fail to recognize this then we can end up in a big trouble. For example: In one of my MBA class, I work with a group of four people. One day, I wrote an e-mail to my group regarding some work assignment. And I used one of my team mate’s name (say Mr. X) as an example to ‘not do something’. Since, I knew him from my other classes and we had close friendship; I thought he will understand my humor behind this analogy. But that e-mail backfired on me. On the other day, Mr. X wrote me a long e-mail explaining, how I offended him. And how he is unhappy about that e-mail.

Obviously, I took corrective action to explain my situation and apologized to him for any unintended behavior from my side. That’s where I got an idea about this blog. I hope, my suggestions in this blog helps you in better communicating with your peers through e-mails, SMS and Twitter. Following are few tips that I would recommend you to follow:

Use of smilies: If you are trying to be humorous in your e-mail then use smilies after your statement. Smilies will go a long way in explaining your stand behind that statement. In my situation, if I would have used a smilie after providing a bad example of Mr. X, nothing would have happened. Mr. X would have understood my message and he would have considered that message, as humorous instead of offensive.

Proof read your e-mail: Make sure that you proof read your message, before you send it to someone. If it is a message about ‘corrective action’, then please proof read it thrice (if possible). E-mails about ‘corrective actions’ are already very sensitive, and you don’t want to overcomplicate it by sending unclear messages. Also, try to put yourself in to the shoes of the reader, and read the e-mail again. Don’t send any e-mails that will offend you, if you were on the other side of the spectrum.

Ask for feedback: Always ask for the feedback. You can use wordings like – “Let me know, if you need anything else from my side”. Feedback mechanism will not only make sure that your message is conveyed properly but also provide an opportunity for the receiver to provide their feedback. Since, I always use this mechanism in my e-mails, Mr. X felt comfortable enough to confront me regarding my e-mail. This gave me an opportunity to explain my position. Thus, don’t ever forget to ask for feedback.

Apologize for miscommunication: In the worst case scenario (like me), never hesitate to apologize. Few words of apologies go a long way. Don’t just apologize by writing something like “Sorry” in your response. Write a brief e-mail regarding your statement, and explain how he/she might have misinterpreted that. This will give you an opportunity to explain yourself and strengthen your relationship with the receiver of that e-mail.

I hope, these tips will help you to better communicate with your team. And if you have any better suggestions, then please feel free to share it with me. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 

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