Training Isn’t Dead – But it Should Be

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

In the text that follows I’m going to poke holes in a process generally accepted as productive, when it rarely is. I’ll likely take some heat over this, and while this post works off some broad generalizations, in my experience having worked with literally thousands of leaders, they are largely true. According to the American Society of Training and Development, U.S. businesses spend more than $170 Billion dollars on leadership based curriculum, with the majority of those dollars being spent on “Leadership Training.” Here’s the thing – when it comes to leadership, the training industry has been broken for years. You don’t train leaders you develop them – a subtle yet important distinction lost on many. Leadership training is alive and well, but it should have died long, long ago…

An Overview of The Problem
My problem with training is it presumes the need for indoctrination on systems, processes and techniques. Moreover, training assumes that said systems, processes and techniques are the right way to do things. When a trainer refers to something as “best practices” you can with great certitude rest assured that’s not the case. Training focuses on best practices, while development focuses on next practices. Training is often a rote, one directional, one dimensional, one size fits all, authoritarian process that imposes static, outdated information on people. The majority of training takes place within a monologue (lecture/presentation) rather than a dialog. Perhaps worst of all, training usually occurs within a vacuum driven by past experience, not by future needs.

The Solution
The solution to the leadership training problem is to scrap it in favor of development. Don’t train leaders, coach them, mentor them, disciple them, and develop them, but please don’t attempt to train them. Where training attempts to standardize by blending to a norm and acclimating to the status quo, development strives to call out the unique and differentiate by shattering the status quo. Training is something leaders dread and will try and avoid, whereas they will embrace and look forward to development. Development is nuanced, contextual, collaborative, fluid, and above all else, actionable.

The following 15 items point out some of the main differences between training and development:

  1. Training focuses on the present – Development focuses on the future.
  2. Training focuses on technique – Development focuses on talent.
  3. Training adheres to standards – Development focuses on maximizing potential.
  4. Training focuses on maintenance – Development focuses on growth.
  5. Training focuses on the role – Development focuses on the person.
  6. Training indoctrinates – Development educates.
  7. Training maintains status quo – Development catalyzes innovation.
  8. Training stifles culture – Development enriches culture.
  9. Training encourages compliance – Development emphasizes performance.
  10. Training focuses on efficiency – Development focuses on effectiveness.
  11. Training focuses on problems  - Development focuses on solutions.
  12. Training focuses on reporting lines – Development expands influence.
  13. Training is mechanical – Development is intellectual.
  14. Training focuses on the knowns – Development explores the unknowns.
  15. Training is finite – Development is infinite.

When it comes to current and future leaders, training will place them in a box, while development will free them from the box. If what you desire is a robotic, static thinker – train them. If you’re seeking innovative, critical thinkers – develop them. I have always said it is impossible to have an enterprise which is growing and evolving if leadership is not. What say you?

Leadership Basics – 5 Keys to Success

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I’ve noticed that it’s not an infrequent occurrence to find that even the most savvy executives either confuse or misconstrue certain basic leadership ideas. As much as some won’t want to admit this, there is no one-size fits all formula for leadership. Leadership means different things to different people, and leadership requires different things from different people at different points in time. The fact is leaders come in many different flavors. The good news is leadership isn’t nearly as complex as many make it out to be. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a leader, we all need to take a step back and review the basic fundamentals of leadership from time-to-time. So, in today’s post I’ve compiled a short list of 5 things you thought you already knew about leadership, but may not be putting into practice.

1. Leaders come in different flavors: There are many different types of leaders, and you will likely encounter all of them over the course of time. Some individuals openly seek out positions of leadership, while leadership is thrust upon others. Whether leaders are elected, appointed, anointed, or self-proclaimed, and regardless of whether it is by design or default, they nonetheless carry the burden and responsibilities associated with being a leader.

While individual leadership approaches will be as different as night and day, and some will clearly be more effective than others, there is something to be learned from them all. There are leaders that we look up to by virtue of their street-smarts, wisdom, and experience; or by virtue of their expertise and contribution to a given field. Most leaders practice some aspects of the following representative leadership styles: authoritative, analytical, charismatic, emotional, intuitive, opportunistic, servant, benevolent, instructional, collaborative, delegatory, inspirational, consultative, visionary, coaching, democratic, etc., but which type of leader are you? Can you recognize the leadership styles of others? Can you adapt your leadership style to the situation at hand? The real trick for leaders is to understand the power of contextual leadership (see #5 below). Put simply, contextual leadership helps you avoid having to pound square pegs into round holes.

2. Leadership is a process or journey of becoming: Although certain people are clearly born with innate leadership qualities, without the right environment and exposure, they may fail to develop their full potential. So like learning how to ride a bicycle, you can also learn how to become a leader and how to hone your leadership abilities. Knowledge of leadership theories and skills may be formally gained by enrolling in leadership seminars, workshops, and conferences. However it is through daily interactions with people that you are provided with the greatest opportunity to observe and practice leadership theories. Together, formal and informal learning will help you acquire leadership attitudes, gain leadership insights, and thus further the cycle of learning. You do not simply just become a leader one moment, and then cease to need learning & development in the next moment. Life-long learning is important in becoming a good leader for each day brings new experiences that put your knowledge, skills, and attitude to a test. Ask any leader how much more they know today than just 5 years ago, and their answer will serve as my validation of proof of concept.

3. Leadership starts with you: The best way to develop leadership qualities is to apply them to your own life through leading by personal example. As the old adage goes “actions speak louder than words.” Leaders are always in the limelight. Keep in mind that your credibility as a leader depends greatly on your actions: your interaction with your family, friends, and co-workers; your way of managing your personal and organizational responsibilities; and even the way you talk with a casual acquaintance in the elevator. Repeated actions become habits, and habits form a person’s character and reputation. A leader who cannot be trusted won’t earn the loyalty and respect of those whom they lead.

4. Leadership is shared: As noted above, while leadership begins with you, it clearly does not end with you. Leadership is not the sole responsibility of one person, but rather a shared responsibility among members of a collective group. As much as some in leadership may not want to hear this, a leader belongs to a group, and each member has responsibilities to fulfill. An individual leader can accomplish much, but a culture of leadership can accomplish more. Formal leadership positions are merely added responsibilities aside from their responsibilities as members of the team. Effective leadership requires members to do their share of work. Starting as a mere group of individuals, members and leaders work towards the formation of an effective team. In this light, social interaction plays a major role in leadership. Learning how to work together requires a great deal of trust between and among leaders, as well as members of an emerging team. Trust is built upon actions and not merely on words. When mutual respect exists, trust is fostered and confidence is built.

5. Leadership styles depend on the situation: I know most of you have read more about contextual and situational leadership from me than you probably care for, however flexibility, fluidity, and adaptability are key elements of all successful leaders. One-size fits all leadership styles are simply disasters in the making. It’s essential to understand that what works with one constituency may not work with another, what works in situation “A” may not work in situation “B” and what works in China will be different than what works in Ireland.

Leadership practices, while remaining authentic, must be tailored to individuals, groups, culture, beliefs, value systems, form of government, socioeconomic status, and other demographic variables. Leaders must employ a combination of leadership styles depending on the situation. An example of the importance of flexibility would be that when staff are highly motivated and competent, a combination of highly delegatory and moderate participative styles of leadership would be most appropriate. But if the staff display low competence and low commitment, a combination of high coaching, high supporting, and high directing behavior from organizational leaders would be much more effective.

Now that we’ve taken a walk down the path of leadership 101, keep in mind that there are always ideas that we think we already know, and concepts we take for granted. I encourage you to keep in mind that these leadersip basics are also some of the most useful insights on leadership…Never dismiss as trite or dated the very same principles that made you a successful leader to begin with. If you have any examples of leadership basics that you feel are all too often overlooked, please share them in the comments section below.

Contingency Planning

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Contingency PlanningThe best leaders always have a back-up plan, so my question to you is: what’s your Plan B? My experience with most executives & entrepreneurs is they are totally committed to and focused on success. As a result, many of them tend to have a major blind-spot (translation: weakness) when it comes to the anticipation of set-backs.  While this is understandable, it is nonetheless naive, and it constitutes a major flaw in the business logic of most strategic plans. This is so much the case that the most often overlooked aspect of strategic planning is adequately addressing contingencies as part of the planning process. In the text that follows, I’ll take a closer look at the value of contingency planning…

The reality surrounding the success of any implementation is found by understanding that no matter how smart you are, things rarely go as planned. Those that plan in advance for changes in circumstances can adroitly address issues when they occur, while those who must deal with “unforeseen” circumstances don’t tend to fare as well. Smart leaders view obstacles as a constant rather than a variable, and incorporate that thinking into their planning.  Any well crafted strategy anticipates obstacles and factors in multiple “what if” scenarios.  Leaders that wait until a problem occurs to deal with it place themselves and their organization at a huge strategic disadvantage.

The three most common outcomes created by a lack of contingency planning are:

  1. Watching things grind to a halt as you scramble to evaluate options;
  2. Having fewer options to assess based upon the new found time constraint, and;
  3. Carrying flawed initiatives forward. Leaders without a Plan B can sometimes refuse to acknowledge the reality of a failed initiative.

One of the exercises I like to take clients through to help identify areas of risk is a premortem – the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem. If you anticipate what might kill a plan before you embark upon the plan, you’re much more likely to succeed in refining and executing the plan. Speed is your friend and should be leveraged to your advantage. Speed is aided by anticipation and slowed by a lack thereof. Smart leaders will do everything in their power to keep a decrease in velocity from becoming a self imposed adversary due to a lack of contingency planning.

It is important to remember that contingency planning is a key to avoiding costly mistakes. In most cases your wins won’t put you out of business, but your losses most certainly can. The three most critical items to focus on when conducting your planning are:

  1. Insure that personal accountability is present on any major benchmark, milestone or deliverable.
  2. Make sure that someone has identified the 5 worst things that could happen with any initiative, what steps can be taken to prevent their occurrence, and what measures will be taken to overcome them if they happen?
  3. Make sure that advance warning signs for potential failures are identified and understood so that you have plenty of runway in front of you to implement your contingency plans.

My final suggestion is that you take the time to review all mission critical plans to ensure that the proper contingency plans have been put into place. If you find an initiative that is flawed or failed don’t let your pride or ego keep you from doing the right thing. Smart Leaders know when to cut their losses and make the needed or necessary changes.

Sidebar: This post was inspired by a conversation I had with Mark Oakes (@MarkOOakes) about the historical origin of the term” Plan B.” As told by Mark, the story goes like this: Baron Von Bismark was tasked with unifying the axis powers in WW1. He had his aids work for months preparing the perfect unification plan. Upon completion they wanted to immediately put it into action. Bismark said “NO…prepare a second plan in the event the first doesn’t work.” It became knows as ‘Plan B’ (B)ismark Plan = Plan ‘B’

Leadership is NOT Dodgeball

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Leadership today seems to be all too often confused with playing a game of dodgeball. It’s as if many leaders show-up for work each day with a freshly applied coat of Teflon, ready to duck and dodge anything that comes their way. Let me be clear – I appreciate savvy and finesse as much as the next person, but not as a substitute for courage. We have too many people in leadership positions who can’t or won’t accept responsibility for anything. Put simply, leadership is about accountability, and not only being willing to take the hit, but also being capable of surviving the hit. Leadership IS ownership…

If your immediate response to a problem is to spin, deflect, or blame-shift, then you’ve got a lot to learn about leadership. Those whom you lead are not looking for you to step back or step aside from issues, they’re looking for you to step-up and hit issues head on. The fastest way to lose respect as a leader is to focus on optics over ethics. If you’re more concerned about political fallout than solving the problem you have failed as a leader. Even though responsibility for decisions defaults to the leader, responsibility should be a thing of design, not default. It should be readily accepted and not easily denied – this is real leadership.

The entire world seems to be crying out for real leadership right now. Not leaders in title, but leaders in action. Whether in the boardroom, political arena, or on the front lines, leadership is far more than holding press conferences, giving speeches, and presiding over meetings and committees. Leadership is owning the responsibility for getting things done or failing to do so. Remember, specificity of thought and deed shatters the comfort and safety sought by those who prefer to remain in the shadows of vague rhetoric.

Let’s look at this another way – when was the last time you held a leader in high regard who dodged the issue, didn’t do the right thing, failed to accept responsibility, took credit for another person’s achievements, or blamed someone else for their mistakes? My guess is that your answer, as it should be, is never. While people will take issue with arrogance or ignorance, they will usually accept an honest mistake – especially where sincere contrition and remorse exist.

Here’s the thing – sane people don’t expect perfection from leaders, but they do expect leaders to be transparent and accountable. Accepting responsibility for your actions, or the actions of your team makes you honorable, and trustworthy – it also humanizes you. People don’t want the talking head of a politician for a leader, they want someone they can connect to, and relate with. They not only want someone they trust, but someone who trusts them as well.

If you take one thing away from today’s post, it should be this: leadership isn’t about you, your ego, your pride, or your personal ambition – it’s about caring for and serving those you lead, while accomplishing the mission at hand. Leadership has very little to do with the leader, and everything to do with those being led.

I knew a great football coach who used to say “Step-up and take the hit or get off the field.” My sentiments exactly. Thoughts?

How To Make Great Leadership Decisions

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Why do leaders fail? They make bad decisions. And in some cases they compound bad decision upon bad decision. You cannot separate leadership from decisioning, for like it or not, they are inexorably linked. Put simply, the outcome of a leader’s decisions can, and usually will, make or break them. Those leaders who avoid making decisions solely for fear of making a bad decision, or conversely those that make decisions just for the sake of making a decision will likely not last long. The fact of the matter is that senior executives who rise to the C-suite do so largely based upon their ability to consistently make sound decisions. However while it may take years of solid decision making to reach the boardroom, it often times only takes one bad decision to fall from the ivory tower. As much as you may wish it wasn’t so, as a CEO you’re really only as good as your last decision.

Making sound decisions is a skill set that needs to be developed like any other. As a person that works with CEOs and entrepreneurs on a daily basis I can tell you with great certainty that all leaders are not created equal when it comes to the competency of their decisioning skills. Nothing will test your metal as CEO more than your ability to make decisions. That said, nobody is immune to bad decisioning. We have all made bad decisions whether we like to admit it or not.  Show me someone who hasn’t made a bad decision and I’ll show you someone who is either not being honest, or someone who avoids decisioning at all costs, which by the way, constitutes a bad decision.

Here’s the thing – even leaders who don’t fail make bad decisions from time-to-time. When I reflect back upon the poor decisions I’ve made, it’s not that I wasn’t capable of making the correct decision, but for whatever reason I failed to use sound decisioning methodology. Gut instincts can only take you so far in life, and anyone who operates outside of a sound decisioning framework will eventually fall prey to an act of oversight, misinformation, misunderstanding, manipulation, impulsivity or some other negative influencing factor.

The first key in understanding how to make great decisions is learning how to synthesize the overwhelming amount incoming information leaders must deal with on a daily basis, while making the best decisions possible in a timely fashion. The key to dealing with the voluminous amounts of information is as simple as becoming discerning surrounding the filtering of various inputs.

Understanding that a hierarchy of knowledge exists is critically important when attempting to make prudent decisions. Put simply…not all inputs should weigh equally in one’s decisioning process. By developing a qualitative and quantitative filtering mechanism for your decisioning process you can make better decisions in a shorter period of time. The hierarchy of knowledge is as follows:

  • Gut Instincts: This is an experiential and/or emotional filter that may often times have no current underpinning of hard analytical support. That said, in absence of other decisioning filters it can sometimes be all a person has to go on when making a decision. Even when more refined analytics are available, your instincts can often provide a very valuable gut check against the reasonability or bias of other inputs. The big take away here is that intuitive decisioning can be refined and improved. My advice is to actually work at becoming very discerning.
  • Data: Raw data is comprised of disparate facts, statistics, or random inputs that in-and-of-themselves hold little value. Making conclusions based on data in its raw form will lead to flawed decisions based on incomplete data sets.
  • Information: Information is simply an evolved, or more complete data set. Information is therefore derived from a collection of processed data where context and meaning have been added to disparate facts which allow for a more thorough analysis.
  • Knowledge: Knowledge is information that has been refined by analysis such that it has been assimilated, tested and/or validated. Most importantly, knowledge is actionable with a high degree of accuracy because proof of concept exists.

Even though people often treat theory as knowledge, and opinion as fact, they are not one and the same. I have witnessed many a savvy executive blur the lines between fact and fiction resulting in an ill advised decision when decisions are made under extreme pressure and outside of a sound decisioning framework. Decisions made at the gut instinct or data level can be made quickly, but offer a higher level of risk. Decisioning at the information level affords a higher degree of risk management, but are still not as safe as those decisions based upon actionable knowledge.

Another aspect that needs to be factored into the decisioning process is the source of the input. I believe it was Cyrus the Great who said “diversity in counsel, unity in command” meaning that good leaders seek the counsel of others, but maintain command control over the final decision. While most successful leaders subscribe to this theory, the real question in not whether you should seek counsel, but in fact where, and how much counsel you should seek. You see more input, or the wrong input, doesn’t necessarily add value to a decisioning process. Volume for the sake of volume will only tend to confuse matters, and seeking input from sources that can’t offer significant contributions is likely a waste of time. Two other issues that should be considered in your decisioning process as they relate to the source of input are as follows:

  1. Credibility: What is the track record of your source? Is the source reliable and credible? Are they delivering data, information or knowledge? Will the source tell you what you want to hear, what they want you to hear, or will they provide the unedited version of cold hard truth?
  2. Bias: Are there any hidden and/or competing agendas that are coloring the input being received? Is the input being provided for the benefit of the source or the benefit of the enterprise?

The complexity of the current business landscape, combined with ever increasing expectations of performance, and the speed at which decisions must be made, are a potential recipe for disaster for today’s executive unless a defined methodology for decisioning is put into place. If you incorporate the following metrics into your decisioning framework you will minimize the chances of making a bad decision:

  1. Perform a Situation Analysis: What is motivating the need for a decision? What would happen if no decision is made? Who will the decision impact (both directly and indirectly)? What data, analytics, research, or supporting information do you have to validate the inclinations driving your decision?
  2. Subject your Decision to Public Scrutiny: There are no private decisions. Sooner or later the details surrounding any decision will likely come out. If your decision were printed on the front page of the newspaper how would you feel? What would your family think of your decision? How would your shareholders and employees feel about your decision? Have you sought counsel and/or feedback before making your decision?
  3. Conduct a Cost/Benefit Analysis: Do the potential benefits derived from the decision justify the expected costs? What if the costs exceed projections, and the benefits fall short of projections?
  4. Assess the Risk/Reward Ratio: What are all the possible rewards, and when contrasted with all the potential risks are the odds in your favor, or are they stacked against you?
  5. Assess Whether it is the Right Thing To Do: Standing behind decisions that everyone supports doesn’t particularly require a lot of chutzpah. On the other hand, standing behind what one believes is the right decision in the face of tremendous controversy is the stuff great leaders are made of. My wife has always told me that “you can’t go wrong by going right,” and as usual I find her advice to be spot on…Never compromise your value system, your character, or your integrity.
  6. Make The Decision: Perhaps most importantly, you must have a bias toward action, and be willing to make the decision. Moreover, you must learn to make the best decision possible even if you possess an incomplete data set. Don’t fall prey to analysis paralysis, but rather make the best decision possible with the information at hand using some of the methods mentioned above. Opportunities and not static, and the law of diminishing returns applies to most opportunities in that the longer you wait to seize the opportunity the smaller the return typically is. In fact, more likely is the case that the opportunity will completely evaporate if you wait too long to seize it.

If you have any other advice and/or suggestions about how to make better decisions, please share them in the comments section below…

Is Your Message Relevant?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

When was the last time you bothered to read, watch, or listen to a message that wasn’t relevant to your needs? Great leaders understand the power, influence, and leverage created by relevant messaging. Put simply, relevant messages are engaging because they connect – they add value. Great (relevant) messages usually contain one or more of the following aspects: they are timely, informative, actionable, revealing, ground-breaking, inspirational, challenging, empathetic, truthful, cautionary, or even rebuking.  They have some sort of emotive, intellectual, or instructional appeal to the audience being addressed. No appeal equals no relevance. Perhaps more importantly, no relevance erodes influence (real or perceived).

Do you ever find yourself sitting back and marveling at those leaders who always seem to have the right thing to say? Contrast this with the feelings you have when you hear an awful sound-bite that makes a leader look either uninformed, disconnected, or unintelligent. The difference between the two aforementioned examples is that great leaders have mastered the art of finding the right message (the relevant message) regardless of the medium, market, or constituency being addressed. Relevance is the greatest barrier to obsolescence.

Few things are as annoying as those who can’t get to the point, don’t have a point, or have the wrong point. If you’ve ever found yourself adrift in a daydream because you were being told how to build a watch when all you wanted was to know the time, then you understand the importance of relevant messaging. Fact: It is simply not possible to have a well received message that is not relevant. That said, I’m always amazed at those who believe that just because something matters to them, that it must matter to others. Remember that just because you have something to say doesn’t necessarily mean that other people want to hear it.  Furthermore, just increasing the volume or frequency of the message doesn’t make it any more relevant. When a message isn’t sticking, smart leaders don’t raise the volume of the rhetoric – they improve the quality of the message.

So why is great messaging so important? In the business world, as a chief executive officer or entrepreneur, corporate messaging is the key to both your personal and professional positioning strategy. A leader’s message has a direct impact on their personal and corporate brand equity, how they manage a crisis, marketing initiatives, investor relations, press and public relations, team building and employee engagement, customer loyalty and virtually any other mission critical area of chief executive responsibility.

The reality is that your messaging will often times have a greater impact on your career than your performance. I have witnessed on numerous occasions CEOs with average, or even sub-par performance histories fare well because they possessed great messaging skills. Let me be clear that I’m not advocating form over substance here…I’m simply pointing out that they understood how to message their shortcomings and flaws, while engendering confidence around their planning for corrective measures to critical spheres of influence. The message was on target, it was relevant, and therefore it was believable.

By contrast, I have also watched CEOs with excellent performance histories not do so well because they did not possess the messaging skills necessary to keep stakeholders engaged. They did not address the needs or concerns of the audience they were addressing, and therefore the message was irrelevant and subsequently ineffective. Simply put, the relevancy, savvy and sophistication of your messaging will have a direct impact on the sustainability of your tenure as a chief executive.

CEOs who become recognized as great leaders are prepared, articulate, consistent, and crisp in their messaging. They speak with authority, clarity, and certitude because their messaging is relevant. In fact, it is the relevancy of their messaging that engenders confidence and serves to inspire and unify. Perhaps most importantly, a great leader’s message is never in conflict with their values. They will not compromise their core beliefs simply to manipulate the outcome of a specific situation. They rest in the comfort that doing and saying the right things will ultimately put them in a favorable position, and if not, they are comfortable in assuming any negative consequences that may come as a result of right thinking and decisioning.

When it comes to the construction of messaging, I have found that people will tend to fall into one of the four following groups.

  1. The Medium “is” the Message: People that fall into this camp believe that the medium will do the work for them…They believe in the reach and power of the medium to overcome any flaws in the message. This view of messaging constitutes a numbers based approach where the business logic states that if you reach enough people with the message some acceptable percentage of the people reached will embrace the message.
  2. The Market “is” the Message: This view of messaging values the target audience above all else. The message is so targeted and niche specific that it is sometimes almost unintelligible to those who fall outside of the intended target market.
  3. The Message “is” the Message: This group believes that content is king…The emphasis here is that if the message is creative enough, or valuable enough, nothing else matters. This view of messaging is all about the teaser, the hook, the calls to action, the design, the concept, etc.
  4. The Messenger “is” the Message: This is the branded approach to messaging…If the person delivering the message has enough credibility and influence, nothing else matters. This iconic, ego-centric approach to messaging places a high premium on the spokesperson.

My view of the aforementioned four theories is that their sum total value is greater than their independent stand alone value.  Other than in matters of character and principle, I don’t tend to be an absolutist…Over the years, and especially in the genres of marketing, branding, positioning, and messaging, I believe a collaborative and cross-disciplined approach to be the key to success…

While content can create credibility, credibility can also enhance the view of content. Furthermore, the best content or spokesperson in the world communicating to the wrong audience, with the wrong message, or through the wrong medium is likely to miss the mark. It takes a blending of approach to craft the right message and this will not happen when operating in a vacuum. Following are a few final thoughts for your consideration when crafting your message:

  1. It Must Be the Truth: The truth always comes out in the end…If your message won’t pass public scrutiny over time, then you have the wrong message.
  2. Use a Cross Media Approach: Long gone are the days of one size fits all media…the best messaging campaigns take place across media platforms and channels creating multiple touch points to various constituencies and demographics.
  3. Know Your Talking Points: Don’t allow the message to get lost in the medium. Remember that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. You must be consistent and convicted in your opinions and your positions. Be clear, concise and don’t compromise on key points.
  4. Know Your Audience: All messages should be tailored to the audience being addressed. This does not mean you should compromise your position, rather it means your message needs to relevant, timely, and of significance. While your talking points need to remain the same, they also need to address the concerns and areas of interest of those being communicated to. The message must be relevant to be successful.
  5. Don’t Forget Your Critics: The tendency is to believe that your audience is comprised of friends and allies. You need to assume that every message given will find its way into the hands of your worst critics, and furthermore, that they will attempt to use your message against you.

Keep the message relevant and real and you’ll stand apart from the masses. I invite you to add your feedback and insights by submitting a comment below…

Workplace Gossip

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

No GossipAllowing gossip in the workplace is like encouraging your employees to swim with sharks. Let me cut right to the chase – real leaders don’t participate in gossip, and likewise they don’t tolerate gossip from others. Gossip destroys trust, undermines credibility, and is one of the greatest adversaries of a healthy corporate culture.  While the emotional distress associated with gossip can be dealt with fairly easily, the political discord that can erupt in an organization can be nothing short of disastrous. In today’s post I’ll share my thoughts on how to control gossip in the workplace…

My question is this: as a leader, do you want to create a culture of doubt or a culture of leadership? If what you desire as an executive is to have a healthy, thriving, and productive company, it is essential that you curtail office gossip. Gossip is one of the most divisive undercurrents pervading business as it allows for the unnecessary dispersion of negative innuendo for the pleasure of a few, and to the detriment of many…Show me a person that participates in gossip and I’ll show you someone who cannot be trusted. People who participate in gossip often times view their activity as being politically savvy when in fact gossip is the tool of insecure, rank amateurs…

I’ve written often on the importance of building solid relationships through displaying a consistency of character, creating a bond of trust, making good decisions, and striving to help others succeed. When you take part in gossip you do none of these things. In fact, gossip seriously undermines each one of the aforementioned success metrics by propagating inaccurate information. At its core, gossip is the highest form of disloyalty, and it is far from innocent or idle. Nothing can claim more tainted professional reputations, destroyed friendships, and polluted corporate cultures than gossip.

The best definition I’ve found for gossip is: “Gossip is talking about a situation with somebody who is neither a part of the solution or a part of the problem.” If you have a problem with a person, or take exception to a particular situation, go directly to the source. There are few things in life I loathe as much as those that don’t have the courage and integrity to hit things head on…

If I have a problem with someone I give them the courtesy and respect of addressing the issue with them. Talking to anyone else wouldn’t resolve the issue, it would merely be self serving indulgence at someone else’s expense. In fact, it is my opinion that the worst form of gossip is conducted under the guise of seeking advice or counsel. If you need to seek the wisdom of a third party prior to addressing the root issue, do it generically and anonymously so as not to impugn the character of another.

As I mentioned above, gossip isn’t idle, nor is it innocent, cute, or something to be trivialized as insignificant. At best gossip creates unnecessary tension, but most often it creates outright conflict. As a leader you wouldn’t likely tolerate gossip targeted at you, so if you allow gossip to be spread about others, what does this say about you? If gossip pervades your organization and you are not aware of it, then you clearly don’t have the pulse of your organization, your public statements about the importance of culture and morale will seem disingenuous, and you’re likely guilty of being what I refer to as a disconnected leader.

In the same fashion that being the source of gossip is destructive, so is furthering the damage by ratcheting up the rhetoric by participating in gossip. If someone comes to you about a problem with another person, immediately redirect that individual back to the person in question. If that doesn’t work, and you must get involved, offer to accompany the person with the problem in addressing the individual they have an issue with.

I have watched many a well intentioned executive get sucked into gossip in an attempt to help, only to pay a big price down the road for their error in judgment. If you want to be a long-term survivor in business I would suggest that you not participate in gossip and get rid of those that do. Remember that those individuals that will gossip to you, will also gossip about you…

Many would suggest that the thought of eliminating gossip in the corporate world is an exercise in naivete. They would take the position that gossip is just part of human nature, and that gossip will always exist in any type of environment where social dynamics are present. The old saying “it is what it is” is only true until you decide to make a difference. As a leader it is incumbent upon you to do the right thing, which is to protect your reputation and those that you work with. Furthermore, allowing anyone under your charge to participate in any activity to the contrary makes you an accomplice in the decline of morale, and the decay of your corporate culture. Put simply, good leaders don’t tolerate gossip.

If you’re still inclined to partake in gossip let me leave you with the following three thoughts:

  • No worthwhile gain ever comes at another’s unjust expense;
  • It’s more profitable to do your own work than to tear down or lay claim to the work of others, and;
  • Envy and deceit never give birth to lasting joy.

As always, I welcome your comments below – I am particularly interested in any examples of effective methods you’ve used to curtail gossip, or how gossip has adversely impacted you or someone you know.