Can We Invite a Motivational Speaker For Our Leadership Meet?


Divya heads HR at Isle Management and is in discussion with her management team on their annual employee survey results. They are dismayed by what they read.  They invite their business leaders to decode the findings. Here is an excerpt from their conversation. I invite you to share your views on this case.

Divya: “It is difficult to comprehend that our managers are not motivated enough. We do so much to engage them all around the year and they are the face of the organization for their teams.”

Tony (IT head): “I agree.  We provide industry leading benefits and offer opportunities to progress in their careers. What more can anyone ask for?”

Isabel (Finance leader): (nodding her head) “Completely agree. There is so much of investment we make – sending them for seminars, conferences and trainings. Despite that they feel they are not engaged enough. I don’t get it”.

Violet (business partner): “I have spent months explaining how we can look at last year’s findings and make the workplace come alive. We do so many engaging activities, support the business with insights to improve connection – yet….(her voice fades).

Anil (strategy head): “It is an unhealthy sign. Indicates that leaders are not sufficiently motivated to lead their teams. We have shown them where we are heading as a company and what we expect of them. What more can be expected?”

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?

Divya: “Thinking aloud – why don’t we call for a leadership meet?”

Anil: “What will we achieve?”

Divya: “It will be good to get them away from the workplace, get fresh perspectives and open their minds to newer ways of engaging”

Tony: “But how?”

Divya: “By inviting an inspirational speaker from outside to address our leaders!”

Violet: “What a wonderful idea. How clever!”

Anil: “I like it. Let us do this. I am sure people will love to be motivated. We tried and it didn’t work. So hopefully, someone else can.”

Isabel (sounding apprehensive): “Sorry folks, I am not sure about this. What will happen after this person speaks?”

Divya (looking offended): “What do you mean Isabel? The speaker will inspire our leaders and they will go forth and inspire others”

Tony: “Yes, if we get Milind Kumar, the expert sociologist who studied how people interact in different cultures or Michel Rotwik, the futurist who can read your future by looking at your nails or Kanishka Godbole, the renowned doctor who has performed multiple heart surgeries and is listed as a Tinkle Book of Records holder.  Or even, Karthik Pillai who ran the 20km marathon backwards”.

Isabel (looking in disbelief): “You sure?”

Tony: “It will work– I can see how our leaders will emerge mesmerized, committed and energized by this interaction. They will then be able to apply insights to engage their teams”

Isabel: “Hmm, I am not sure though.”

She excuses herself from the meeting and walks back to her desk thinking if what she heard was really true. This group is thinking of calling an external speaker who will inspire their leaders? She wants to discuss this topic again with Divya and revisit this thinking altogether. Is her feeling unfounded? Will this really not work? What do you think?

5 Ways To Communicate Your Community Effort Responsibly


Communicating your organization’s social responsibilities is more than just an expectation. It is critical to the success of your organization’s credibility as a business. In this post I am sharing a few tips that can help you frame your CSR communication responsibly.

  • Timely updates: Keeping your internal and external stakeholders posted about the rationale, progress and impact in a timely manner sends a strong signal about your organization’s commitment to CSR. Sharing your calendar of activities, volunteering opportunities and milestones helps stakeholders know what to expect and how to engage. Bringing out your CSR reports on time and ensuring it is accessible on all your relevant channels can improve your standing as a responsible citizen.
  • Focus on societal impact: Rather than highlight the activities and events on the causes your organization supports it is helpful to focus on the value they deliver to society. As in, did the initiative have a long term impact on the community? Did it improve the lives of people it hoped to touch? Was it inclusive in its approach? Has it changed how the issue is perceived now in the community? By linking your CSR work with the end outcomes you can help your stakeholders appreciate what it takes to add value to the world.

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  • Recognize your champions: No CSR program is done in isolation. It needs the collective might of stakeholders, inside and outside the organization to deliver tangible and sustainable results. Make it a point to recognize those individuals and groups who have contributed to the success of your initiatives. Highlight key supporters and share their stories. There is nothing more powerful than having champions get their share of the spotlight.
  • Share learning: Every initiative will have its highs and lows and by sharing such learning you not just indicate your transparency but also the heart of your organization. Your stakeholders can see through ‘promotions’ but only when you share your vulnerabilities do they recognize your character. If you have made a mistake in a program, be it a decision or an approach, do also call out how you plan to remedy the issue for future initiatives.
  • Invite feedback: Not every CSR initiative may go as per your plan. Often, limited resources, the internal business environment or lack of collaboration can hurt progress. By openly discussing issues and seeking direct feedback you have a good chance of improving your value and relationship with stakeholders. Talk about how decisions were made and the rationale taken so that everyone is on the same page with your CSR mission.

The perception of your company’s CSR is directly related to how you responsibly communicate your effort. Through proactive, authentic and inclusive communication behavior you can positively engage your stakeholders for the better.

6 Ways to Improve Your Employee Newsletter’s Success Quotient


Corporate in-house newsletters have progressed over the years from ‘entertaining’ employees to helping ‘identify’ with the firm.  Very often these newsletters are a ‘good to have’ and serve expectations of internal stakeholders as it captures key business stories, policies and processes. As one of the many channels for engaging employees the newsletter’s value and impact can often go unnoticed unless managed, measured and communicated effectively.

20160402_112300In this post I offer a few recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of your newsletter and make it a credible and recognized vehicle of employee involvement, commitment and identification.

  • Access: At a preliminary level it will help to know if your newsletter is received by the audience you target. Unless you have a way to track open rates or know the read count (for an electronic version) it can be tough to demonstrate the value and impact of the channel. If you have employees who work at remote sites or are on the move giving access via mobile devices is a must. Knowing how employees access the newsletter on their devices can come handy while making tweaks to the medium of engagement. With a printed newsletter the appropriate placement and promotion can help improve reach and visibility.
  • Consistency: Bringing out the edition in a timely manner is as important as just releasing it. Be it a weekly or a quarterly edition, employees expect to receive important company news continually. If you have promised a schedule sticking to it consistently can improve your channel’s credibility over time. With an electronic version the time of publishing is important – ideally sending it when most of your staff is available or likely to open the communication is beneficial. You can gather insights from employee feedback or from your own internal analytics.
  • Balance: Employees will expect to see a good mix of coverage from most, if not all parts of the business. Sharing stories that show different dimensions of the organization’s character can help improve acceptability. Also, seeking and increasing crowdsourced content from employees is an excellent way to gain readership.
  • Content: Apart from measuring readability use text analysis to gauge language usage that helps improves employees’ identification with your organization. For example, words like ‘we’ and ‘our’ are more likely to build a feeling of community as compared to ‘corporate speak’. Try an audio section for those who prefer to download podcasts and listen during their commute. Provide ways for employees to share stories – an easy to use template with an example to boot. Also consider an Archives section or a Search option.
  • Feedback: Nothing can beat asking for feedback and including snippets in your editions – showing what is working for staff and what can be improved. Have a clear and effective method for employees to share feedback, an online survey or an e-mail ID, for example. Involve them in the process of enhancing the newsletter – in focus groups, as part of an editorial council or in a forum to gather key updates from the business. They can also be the sounding board for new ideas and approaches you want to take with the newsletter. Providing a feedback form or a quiz on the content are other ways to measure the success of your newsletter.
  • Test: One step that can solve many issues of usability is to get employees to take a tour of the newsletter’s sections and check if it is intuitive and simple to navigate. Designing the newsletter with the audience at the heart of your communication can improve its appeal and reduce your effort in marketing the channel.

Hopeful these tips help in making your newsletter inclusive, relevant and memorable. Keen to know what you think.

Of Storytelling, Insecurities and Living In The Now


You don’t often meet a person with an eclectic mix of skills and passion – ranging from community management to screenwriting who can bring storytelling to life with personal experiences and anecdotes.

At a NASSCOM led Marketing & Communication Forum interaction today at Bengaluru I had the opportunity to listen to Daniel Martin Eckhart, the Vice President at Swiss Re, the author of novels such as The Champ, Barnaby Smith and Home and a‘Grimme-Prize’ nominee.

What struck me most was his humility – he has served in the Army, United Nations and with the Vatican apart from a variety of roles in his current organization.  To now inspiring employees at the workplace to be themselves and creating a community of brand ambassadors from within. He had mastered his craft and yet his simplicity and willingness to become better shone through.

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While his address did depart to cover philosophy, life lessons and books the messages on storytelling and the need to be authentic and courageous were relevant for communicators. He believes that organizations that enlist and encourage employees to share more about themselves and be ‘real’ will become stronger.

Here are my key take-aways from his talk. Hopefully, these insights will come in handy when you think about your communication.

  • If it is worth sharing, do so: Many of us avoid putting our thoughts down and sharing it widely because we fear exposure, rejection or disapproval. He feels sharing your insecurities is cathartic – you foster dialogue and conversations and help others understand themselves through your own writing. Most people will either read and comment or share your writing but in their process of reflection they will grow personally.
  • Recognize those who share: To have an open culture where ideas and views are valued it is important to recognize and groom employees who are willing to share. In a knowledge intensive environment, there is nothing more powerful than having employees who can be themselves.
  • The world will be about ‘right brained’ activity: With automation catching up at the workplace all process oriented activities will be machine-led making creativity a key skill that will needed among employees. Getting employees to break the routine and think out of the box are essential today.
  • Find the heart in your content: Daniel explained that information can only get you so far while communicating. If you need your audience to believe and relate it needs to be about the core. Look for emotional hooks. Go deeper with your content and address what your audience wants, rather than communicate from your perspective.
  • Bring your whole self to work: This tip related to identification at the workplace and how one can balance having multiple identities – personal and professional and yet be who you want to be. It is definitely an area for organizations to consider while engaging employees.
  • Listen to your audience: He felt that we hear what we want to say in our own heads. It doesn’t mean others get the message. As communicators our role is to help the audience not just receive the message but understand the narrative.
  • Writing is about ‘showing up’: Many are good at managing writers but probably aren’t hands-on when it comes to writing themselves. He advised communicators to sharpen their writing muscle to gain commitment from your readers and be viewed as a credible communicator. As a communication professional writing is an essential skill and is about ‘brand ambassadorship’. Write so that it matters to employees and write in your own voice, he encouraged.
  • Make stories personal and emotional: According to Daniel it is about you and therefore bringing your own views to the table matters most. Seek the personal and emotional aspects to make a story come alive. Look for the ones people care about and make stories that enrich others’ lives.
  • Don’t ask for permission: Often, we default to others for approvals even when we are empowered to make a difference. He believes that leading with passion and conviction can create a human moment. Do what is right and take the lead. If we are doing more of the same, can we get better?
  • Be in the now: This one is my favorite! Daniel called out that we waste time looking at information together in meetings. Rather than discuss and make decisions basis insights very often meetings are held to ‘talk to’ people about information which is available to read. He encourages communicators to avoid this trap and send pre-reads so that everyone comes to the discussion with views and not information.

Interestingly, right after the session I spoke with a fellow communicator. She lamented how she had 10 blog posts written up and waiting – yet hadn’t published them because she wasn’t sure they were ‘ready’! After listening to Daniel, I think the time is now!