Having a Positive Influence

What's So Special About You?

So how do you "give back" to your employees and customers? Can you make a clear, strong argument in just a few words to explain why they are better off working with you than not? This is the true secret of business success, and it is an elusive one. If a business is not clearly different and more desirable to work with for at least some customers and employees in some situations, then it has no business being in business--and certainly won't find it easy to grow and prosper. So the giving-back part really needs to be first and foremost in leaders' minds--not left to an afterthought as it too often is.

Once you're clear on how you can satisfy others' needs well, then you are ready to refine your efforts to influence them. All you need to do is make them see how the alignment of interests will help them and you at the same time. If you are right, you only have a communication problem now--although sometimes it can seem like a big one!

In marketing, this effort to communicate is taken to a high degree of refinement. Perhaps too high a degree--I'm a bit sick of all the advertising that comes my way, how about you? But in truth, the main flaw in advertising is that alignment thing--much of it is not built on a clear alignment of my interests with theirs, so even if they get my attention I don't like the message.

The part of marketing that is done really well is the communications part. A lot of effort and imagination goes into creating messages that attract attention and encapsulate a message in a creative, interesting way. And since I largely address management issues in this column, I want to point out that we fail to apply anywhere near as much imagination in our efforts to communicate with employees.

Customers get more communications thrown at them than they want, while employees operate in a relative vacuum. We shout at one of the key groups we wish to influence, and we whisper to the other. Here's a radical thought: Why not shift the balance a bit, and stop flooding customers with communications they say they don't want--while at the same time, giving employees more of the communications they so often complain they don't get but do want?

To shift this balance and begin using communications in a more effective manner to influence our employees in positive ways means bringing some of the same creative spirit to internal communications that we lavish on external ones. In my next column, I will look at ways of taking a creative approach to internal communications and give some fun examples from my current research of managers and businesses that have done so.

Alex Hiam is a trainer, consultant and author of several popular books on business management, marketing and entrepreneurship, including Streetwise Motivating & Rewarding Employees, The Vest-Pocket CEO and other popular books.

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