Taken from Axiom News’ eBook “How to Change Your World by Sharing Stakeholders Stories”
Why is it that despite Intranet, e-mail, Facebook, and GoToMeeting, employees still complain that leadership doesn’t communicate well enough? We have powerful communication tools, but especially since they are often instantaneous and frequent there is all the more need to lead with clarity and direction.
The landscape of communication has changed:
- Different people have the power to communicate.
- Things change at a much faster speed.
- The source of change is less predictable.
- More often change is grass-roots rather than leadership initiated.
Therefore the way you lead is now tied to communication.
Stakeholder News Program
Do your communications focus on telling or listening? One way to know is count the number of “voices” in your corporate communications. Axiom News’ eBook “How to Change Your World by Sharing Stakeholders Stories” addresses just this issue and stresses that the more you are able to listen and then share your stakeholder’s vision for your organization, the stronger your communication will be. This will require you to really engage your stakeholders – actually talk to them, ask questions and then listen carefully to their answers. The key to a Stakeholder’s News Program is including lots of people’s stories, hopes, and challenges related to your mission.
Have you ever been quoted for an article in the newspaper or interviewed for the evening news? If so, you probably read/watched the article with special interest as did your friends and relatives. Maybe some even sent you clippings of the article to save. This is the idea behind Stakeholder News Programs – it’s not so much about how many people are receiving your newsletter as it is how many you ask questions of and thus how many people’s stories you can facilitate being told.
In order to carry out a communications program like this, you have to trust and believe in your stakeholders. It will require humility on your part as you admit that there are others who know more about certain things than you do.
Three things to look for as you implement your Stakeholder News Program:
1) Make meaning over time – make sure the stories tie into a bigger congruent picture over time.
2) Make sure the stories are credible – know what they want to tell and what they want to hear.
3) Only tell stores that are honoring – you need to establish a culture of safety and affirmation.
Ask Catalytic Questions
You know that the things you spend energy investigating determine the direction of your organization. In the same manner, the questions you ask determine the stories and experiences and eventually the culture of your organization. Thus it’s important to ask the right questions such as:
- What is working?
- What is ideal?
- Think about a time when you felt your work was making a difference in someone else’s life. Tell me what you were doing and how you felt.
- What made that experience possible?
- What could be done to make that happen more often?
- What trends do you see that excite you most about the future of this organization?
- What have you seen that suggest your organization is poised to make the most of these opportunities?
- Can you tell me about something a colleague has done to make that possible?
Getting people to think in new ways is a big part of the change process and questions like these will launch the process.
Mainstream journalism is good at taking things apart, but they rarely go beyond criticism to present a suggestion on how something can be improved. Articles like this, that are cynical, preachy, moralizing, destructive or degenerate are not helpful for your organization. Rather, seek out generative journalism – communication that has to produce something new. Look for assets. Assume your stakeholders know the answers to problems. Work under the assumption that the full potential of your organization is already there and just needs to be uncovered.
There are many advantages to publishing regularly:
- It provides a sense of constant movement and direction.
- It builds an audience over time.
- It provides ongoing feedback.
- You are forced to listen as you look for stories.
Consider committing to publishing a story Monday, Wednesday and Friday if not every weekday. Don’t wait to publish a story – because it will soon lose its “news” quality. Instead, write follow-up articles to include additional information you find later.
The Fruit of your Labor
When you implement a Stakeholder News Program, you will find that it results in many positive things for your organization:
- A stronger sense of community which leads to loyalty.
- A storytelling culture that transforms the mundane job to something valued.
- Increased innovation.
- Resilience in light of the bigger picture and commitment to the end goal.
Imagine what it would be like if your organization was inspired, everyone felt in the loop, there was a spirit of innovation, and everyone was appreciated.
The Stakeholder News Program is based on the concepts of Appreciative Inquiry, which is also the basis of Best Christian Workplaces customized consulting process. If you’d like to learn more about how to lead your organization to it latent potential, click here.