Calling the plays
Next time you sit down with your employees (or clients) to discuss why internal communications is so important, bring up the Indianapolis Colts.
For two weeks, Indianapolis has been buzzing about the perfect season that wasn’t. With the Colts postseason set to kick off on Saturday, you are guaranteed to overhear or participate in the ongoing debate about the Colts decision to sit the starters for the Jets game. Or the talk about going for personal stats one week later in Buffalo.
Regardless of which sideline you stand on, one thing is certain. Coach Caldwell and the Colts front office make the decisions, popular or not. Not many decision makers can keep their companies “on message” as well as the Colts administration has managed the official word on the last two games of the season.
“Well, we’re not gonna lobby because that’s not what a football team’s about,” Manning told NFL Network’s Scott Hanson. “The head coach tells us what to do and we follow his orders. Certainly, players have their hopes and wishes, but it’s just not set up that way. [Jim] Caldwell makes the call; we’ll follow.”
Some reporters and fans question whether or not the players truly believe that message, but one thing is certain. Every player gave the company line about the perfect season because they all had their eye on the ultimate prize – the Super Bowl.
Would everyone in your organization speak from the same playbook if asked repeatedly to justify a decision? Does your team trust your decision making abilities? Rather than waiting to find out during a crisis, here’s how you can make communicating with your employees – or partners, or vendors, or sales staff – a priority for 2010.
First, find out what they know about the company. Ask them about the company’s mission. Ask them what they do personally to support the mission. Ask them what they wish they knew more about. Ask them what they say to family and friends about what they do.
Do this in a group setting and again one on one in a regular meeting.
Each time, listen.
If there are gaps – and even if there aren’t – set up regular times to share information about the company’s goals, strategic direction and priorities. Make sure your entire team know what they are working for. Live your open door policy by encouraging your associates to share frustrations internally, when they arise, and to bring questions to you or the other decision makers.
One other important point: don’t trust a memo or e-newsletter to be your only internal communications tools. Ohio State University professor Edgar Dale discovered we remember only 10% of what we read (visual symbols) but we retain 70% of what we discuss with others (experiences).
Do you think the Colts would have spoken from the same playbook if Coach Caldwell had just circulated a memo? They have team meetings for a reason. You should too.