By Paul Deffenbaugh
Our industry and our country are in new territory. We are beyond
the borders of our experience, especially for our current
generations, and trying to figure out the right course to avoid
danger and where to discover success. We have been under the yoke
of a slow economy for nearly four years, and prospects for a rapid
recovery and job growth seem dim.
Recently, our political leadership in Washington dithered about
how best to manage our debt. Cynicism is rampant, and prospects for
a clear path ahead seem bleak.
If you were to put this situation on a map, we would be on the
very edge of the known world. In days past, cartographers marked
such a place with the dire warning, "Here Be Dragons." In my gut, I
feel the truth of that statement. We are now among the dragons.
So what are reasonable business people supposed to do in such an
environment? To extend my metaphor, how do the captains of our
businesses navigate these waters? I don't know about you, but my
inclination in dire times always is to go back to the basics. And
for me the basics always start with communication.
I believe words matter. What we say and how we say it influence
people around us in both positive and negative ways. I know people
who believe very strongly in the power of non-verbal communication,
and I don't mean to dismiss the importance of sending messages to
people by our actions, our facial expressions and even our posture
But at a time when the world needs straight shooters more than
ever, we need to select our words with care and communicate with
our coworkers, employees, clients and suppliers with specific and
direct conversation. Here are my guidelines for how to make words
- Listen to your audience
- Keep it simple
- Say it clearly
- Use it consistently
- Make it logical
- Appeal to common sense
If we can define our message, we can become the leaders. To do
that, we need to execute these basic strategies. Understand the
concerns and worries of your employees and suppliers. Tell them the
truth without embellishment and in the simplest terms. When you
speak or write to them, be consistent in how you phrase your
points. To appeal to common sense, you have to be logical and
directive. "If we do this, then this will happen. If that happens,
our next step is this."
Consider a sea captain on a small sailing vessel becalmed on the
edge of the map. He's been out from port for months, and his crew
is nervous and concerned. The only way to control that situation,
where there be dragons, is to communicate clearly.
The best leaders can do it, and we now desperately need the best
leaders to step forward and communicate simply.