Friday, May 29, 2009

On the Road-Upper West Side

I got an email from my alma mater, Fairleigh Dickinson University mentioning that the 2009 graduation took place a couple of weeks ago (and also asking me for money). It made me think back to my college graduation. Sadly, I didn’t take the education part of college seriously enough but was involved in a bunch of extra-curricular activities: school newspaper, baseball and basketball teams, playing in a band. Our graduation was held outside on the campus. The music was provided by the first steel drum band I’d ever heard and kept looking to see where the organ was until I realized that it was all coming from the drums. So we are sitting in our respective colleges (mine was the school of business). At that time I had very long hair and a full beard. I’ve always worn sport jackets with jeans and that was my outfit that day (under the cap and gown). I’m sitting amongst a group of clean-cut business majors, not one of whom I knew. As the processional came down the aisle (I was sitting three seats in) the school president, J. Osborne Fuller, who was leading it, saw me and said “Congratulations Steve.” Well, you should have seen and felt the stares and looks of amazement that came from those guys around me. “How does this hippie know Dr. Fuller?” Well, I guess even back then I was involved in human relations, communications (and to some degree public relations). With all the scrutiny today public relations (and in some cases damage/crisis control) is becoming more of a valued art than ever. And all of us who are in client relations need to be on top of things and on our toes continually. But the communications challenge isn’t just with our clients or third-parties. It’s a huge part of working in a company environment. Big or small, intra-company communication is also an art which some have mastered and some have not. I put myself in the second category although I am trying. And, it requires me adapting to others and not feeling that the way I communicate (very openly) is the way others are going to do it. In fact, I have found over the years that some colleagues feel threatened by my openness, honesty and desire to be helpful. But when communication becomes a political tool it is not only dangerous but also creates negative energy and wastes time. There’s a lot of talk about ‘open lines of communication’ but there’s not as much action as there are words. And, when someone who promotes themselves and even trains others on the art of communicating can’t do it themselves, well, you’ve got a real problem; one that sets the tone in an organization and can be its undoing. But communication and trust go hand in hand and if we don’t start trusting each other to speak without forked-tongue or out of both sides of our mouths and just to do the right thing and do what we say we're going to do it’ll be even more difficult to make it through these challenging times.

I grabbed this off a website of Erika Anderson who is an author of Growing Great Employees and Being Strategic:

Here's some stuff that people are doing that seems smart and useful:

  • using their best minds to explore alternative revenue streams and approaches to distribution and marketing,
  • focusing on serving customers better than ever (and in ways their competition isn't),
  • communicating consistently and honestly with their employees about what's happening and what the company is doing about it,
  • setting clearer performance standards and figuring out how to hold people accountable to them,
  • letting go of marginal performers,
  • hiring newly available 'rock stars' to fill key open positions,
  • agreeing on those efforts most essential to growth and directing resources toward them,
  • using any available resources to take advantage of market opportunities created by others' failures (as long as those market opportunities lie squarely in their core competencies).

Book of the week: The Genius Machine: The Eleven Steps That Turn Raw Ideas into Brilliance by Gerald Sindell . I have not read it yet (just ordered it) but I know Jerry and he’s a "brilliant" guy so I’m sure this is a great read.

Photo: Mural at I.V. Lab Studios, Chicago

Upcoming travel (dates not certain except for Whippany next week):

San Francisco
Whippany, NJ

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