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.
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!