In my work with Blanchard clients, one of the most frequently mentioned challenges in client organizations is “communication.” It’s a broad term – too broad to understand exactly what the issues are. When I ask for specifics, I typically hear things like, “I don’t understand what our strategy is,” and “I have no idea why my boss made decision ‘X’,” and “Our work has changed immensely; how do we know if we’re headed down the right path today or not?”
When staff do not understand your company strategy, struggle to make sense of decisions, or don’t understand where they fit in the scheme of things, they worry. They gossip. They may even invent plausible “stories” to make sense of the plans, decisions, and actions they see leaders make. Time spent on these worries erodes employee productivity and employee passion for their work and their customers.
Every company faces these same communications challenges. For example the Ken Blanchard Companies has over 350 employees in offices across the globe (San Diego; Toronto; London; Singapore) and in home offices in these and many other countries. Some of Blanchard’s consultants work independently for months without engaging with any other Blanchard colleagues face to face.
Given Blanchard’s global workforce, it is tough to ensure that every Blanchard associate knows what they need to know about the company’s strategy, key goals, department objectives, client needs, colleague needs, and more. Consultants can get completely focused on what’s on their to do list (“What’s the dress code for this week’s client engagement? What time is my flight tomorrow?”) and not pay attention to what colleagues are doing or facing.
Keep People Informed, Proactively
Blanchard’s chief spiritual officer (yes, that’s his actual title), Ken Blanchard, has a unique way of keeping all staff, around the globe, informed about what’s happening in the company. Ken leaves a voicemail to every employee, each Monday through Friday morning.
Ken lets everyone know where he’s at (often with clients), what he’s doing, and even “what’s come clear to him” in the last 24 hours. As one of the planet’s most brilliant minds, lots of cool stuff comes clear to him regularly.
Ken also informs associates about structural changes, players in new roles, great work by Blanchard associates, and sometimes asks for prayers/positive vibes if associates (or their family members) are challenged by health issues.
It’s quite a demand on Ken, given his travels and commitments, but he makes it a priority to leave us his morning messages. (Periodically when he’s out of the country he asks for volunteers to cover for him!)
Create Many Communications Channels
Besides Ken’s daily messages, Blanchard has multiple other communications avenues in place. They include:
- Quarterly all-company meetings that are broadcast (audio/video) from the company’s Escondido, CA, USA headquarters.
- Regular 1:1 meetings between leaders and followers. These meetings are follower-driven to ensure that direct reports get their questions answered, immediately.
- An online website where associates can review recorded all-company meetings, review team performance, learn about client successes, or even dive into new products that are in the pipeline.
Blanchard’s is not a perfect system but it works well in their culture. The trick is for you to find mechanisms like these that proactively and effectively educate staff about strategy, goals, opportunities, celebrations, and more. When complaints about communications issues are less frequent, you’re on the right track.
What communications mechanisms work well for you and your company? Share them in the comments section below.
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