Saturday, 21 February 2009

What do they hear?

I gotta wonder what others heard when Tom Peters spoke to NZ SME owners at an Auckland seminar on Thur 19 Feb 2009 and to a conference of (NZ) partners, coaches, administrators and BDMs the next day.

If Voxy (American Business Guru Tom Peters Offers Hope to Kiwi Companies During Visit on Voxy) and the NZ Herald (Tom Peters Top tips: To pull through the recession) are a good indication then what seemed to me to be Tom's key message seems to have been lost in the panic. It's all the usual managerial stuff.

Tom's emphasis on interrelationships between people seems to have been lost in translation and selective listening.

My take on what he said is that interpersonal communication and relationships are the key: upstream and downstream of the business and particularly inside it. For instance, he emphasised several times that he would be very disappointed if there was as a single firm in the room (350 people) that didn’t, as a result of his seminar, implement a programme to develop listening and talking skills and behaviours of its people. (I'd put money on no more than a hand-full doing anything more than a token action).

That’s how fundamental he thinks effective communication is to business survival and growth. He even ventured that business strategy isn’t the prime issue - communication and relationships are: if the relationships and communication are effective then effective strategy will emerge and be implemented; that learning and change will happen and that ability to learn, change and innovate is the crucial competitive advantage in this economic climate.

In other words, the interrelationships within and around the owner and his firm are perhaps his greatest asset. . But the interrelationships probably receive the least direct attention, certainly aren’t on the balance sheet, and probably aren’t measured! (If Tom's right, then maybe it'd be a different story if the owner is a woman)

As Tom said, effective communication can be learned and interrelationships made more effective.

Trouble is that the usual managerial actions to send the people to a course on “Effective Presentations” and/or “Handling Difficult People” won’t do it. Making it a KPI won’t do it. Making it someone else’s responsibility won’t do it.

It’s a slow process that begins by the boss by changing his/her behaviour. They have to work with others to do it. They have to learn to communicate better to do it. They have to learn new communication habits. They have to be personal, emotional, and intimate: messy qualities and behaviours typically avoided in “business”.

There are some “obvious” things that can be done to begin to improve the quality of communication like revisit your BHAG (Jim Collins) and building emotion and passion into those Rockefeller habits (Verne Harnish). They can recruit communicators. They can create opportunities for themselves and their people to be ‘real’.

They can pay attention to the little thoughtful things that Tom demonstrated achieve apparently miraculous effect. And there are many other important, focused strategies they can implement to develop and get the best return on their relational asset.

Will they get it? I reckon that some will, with some excellent coaching.

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