“You must surface the things that no one else will talk about. If it’s getting in the way of productivity it needs to come out. Otherwise it will go underground in blogs, rumours and gossip, all of which are unproductive.” Penny Holden.
Jackie Brown-Haysom reports on Penny Holden’s presentation on communication for leaders focusing on workplace communication at the recent health and safety conference May 2009.
Workplace communication was the theme for two speakers at a recent health and safety conference. Jackie Brown-Haysom reports on Penny Holden’s presentation on communication for leaders.
A different aspect of workplace communication was the theme for personal and corporate coach Penny Holden, who also spoke at the conference.
Holden, from Unearthing the gold: human potential unlimited, looked at communication for leaders, kicking off her interactive session by waving around a carrot and a stick, and promising a $2 Shop badge for the person who suggested the best object to symbolise the more subtle way of seeking engagement that she was about to describe.
Change, she said, is something that people resist because it is uncomfortable, but leaders must persuade people to choose change, and good communication skills are their most important tool for doing so. According to Holden, the rules for effective communication are simple.
First off, keep it clear. “Know your message,” she said. “Ask yourself what is the key message, who is your target audience, and what do you want to happen?”
With that sorted, the next step is to sell instead of tell. “When people hear a demand they see only two options—submission or rebellion. What you want to do is influence, and seek engagement in your ideas.”
A leader will not achieve buy-in, however, unless he or she is also prepared to flex, Holden said. “Neither the carrot nor the stick is flexible, but you need to remember that we all listen from our own perceptions and adapt to suit your audience. “If I go to buy a car, I am after reliability and I want to save the planet. If the salesman is focused on looks and image as a selling point he’s not going to persuade me.
“You need to know that your truth is just your perception—we all have different truths and to be an effective leader you must look at things through other people’s perceptions.”
While people want to see how they will benefit from change, there is also variation in what people perceive as beneficial, Holden said, and leaders should not assume that others necessarily see benefits in the same way they do. While change leaders must be enthusiastic and determined, they must also make an effort to discuss the undiscussable, she said.
“You must surface the things that no one else will talk about. If it’s getting in the way of productivity it needs to come out. Otherwise it will go underground in blogs, rumours and gossip, all of which are unproductive.”
By the end of her presentation the audience had plenty of suggestions about how to symbolise the alternative to a carrot and stick approach, but Holden picked a box of chocolates as the best idea because a single box will offer both hard and soft centres in a range of flavours so everyone can find something they want.
Jackie Brown-Haysom is an Auckland freelance journalist.