Kill the cheerleader – improve communications

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Despite multiple people informing me to the contrary – I consider myself a man of the people, with that comes some union stewardship activities within the organization. Not a true beat people up with baseball bats union role, more of a “hey, I’m noticing “X” in the organization and blah, blah….”. Essentially I’m always willing to hint “maybe we should look at X” to management kinda guy. I know, how un-[tag]proletariat[/tag] of me – but I do think [tag]middle management[/tag] has the best position to drive change and improvement.

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Nevertheless – so what is the cheerleader? It’s both a persona and a group mentality, at some point, I’ll write on the persona as part of Stuck in the Middle, but it’s the Corporate Cheer Culture which represents an erosion of corporate-wide execution and what I want to rant about today which may help middle managers be more effective and improve corporate communications.

The cheerleader mentality can easily be recognized: it’s when just doing your job – the job for which you are paid for – becomes a corporate-wide messaging platform from which senior executives send ad-hoc, real-time blackberry-driven snippets to the organization to prove who is the most transparent and dedicated member of the leadership team. Let’s put it in context of [tag]Bring it On[/tag]:

Isis: Where we come from, ‘cheer’ is not a word you hear very often…
Lava: They should call us ‘inspiration leaders’ instead.
Jenelope: Ooo, that’s deep… I like that

Often it starts with the line executive who feels the need to send a “who’s awake” message and prove that they are not really sleeping in their bed, with the initial non-global email that declares project completion at 2 am on a Saturday, which get escalated to the whole organization due to him/her having global distribution list sending rights.   The two word “GREAT JOB!!!!” [tag]email[/tag]s lack originality….

Missy: You ripped off those cheers!
Torrance Shipman: Excuse me, Missy, our cheers are 100% original. Count the trophies!
Missy: Well, your trophies are bullshit, and you’re a sadass liar.
Torrance Shipman: All right, that’s it! Get out of the car, I’m gonna kick your ass!

Communication of project accomplishments should typically remain internal to the group participants or team and leverage a more formal vehicle for corporate-wide communications to be done by the CEO or a similar GM level role.   Not all projects are worthy of corporate-wide communication, and some departments, by their nature have more “projects,” which if the communications plan and policies aren’t well managed, could ultimately suggest a preferred team over another.  For example, IT has all kinds of projects, but Collections…not so much.

Unbalanced, ad-hoc and unstructured communications to an entire organization does not solve for the “you don’t communicate enough” complaint which is never satiated by more communication – really!

Effective communication should start with middle management and be group-oriented. While not an article on general communication on a Hill and Knowlton blog, it is still an important framework to use for the “great job team” stuff, paraphrased:

  • How do you manage culture change/improvement?
  • Where are the middle managers in the communication process?
  • How can you increase your credibility as communicators and the credibility of your communication channels?
  • How can we better use measurement to bolster our communication?

If a “great job” communications plan for the whole company doesn’t address the items above, then it basically degrades to promoting and public recognition for a team which is essentially doing what they are paid for.

If, however, middle management institutes a post-completion, “lessons learned” step into the project plan that promotes coaching and further growth, the company will be better off – every project has coaching opportunities, and global “great job” emails minimize the opportunity to strengthen individual teams and eliminate the effectiveness of more strategic corporate-wide communications which leverage formal or established channels.

Think about it – if the VP of Human Resources sends a 1 line great job email and the line Executive rights a missive on great execution, a little hard to coach most people. Everyone has an ego and an artifact in their inbox to PROVE they did well, regardless of the opportunity for improvement.

Corporate cheerleaders need to determine when and how they will communicate encouragement and appreciation to the entire team.   Again another Bring it On thought:

Sparky: I am a choreographer. That’s what I do. You are cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are dancers who have gone retarded.

Perhaps group email love-fests for the whole organization are just bad choreography from a limited leader who wants folks to know what they are doing and how important THEY were in organizing/leading the effort.  There are more sparky’s than one would think on most [tag]leadership[/tag] teams.

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  • Reply geographer.com » Blog Archive » Random relevance October 21, 2007 at 6:26 am

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