Updated: Feb 24
In my work as a leadership speaker, sometimes I must ask clients, "do you want me to give you what you want, or give you what you need?" In other words, do clients want a band-aid, or do they want the cure for their problem?
To illustrate, in early 2018, an organization in Iowa requested I deliver a motivational speech for 400 employees. I had previously worked with this organization and established credibility as an expert, someone they could trust to deliver.
I asked the CEO and VP of Operations what problem they were trying to solve that made them believe that a motivational presentation was the answer. The VP of Operations replied that the company had recently endured lots of changes and growth, which caused poor morale among the workers. I dug further and asked what they meant by "poor morale." The CEO emphatically said that employees had taken on bad attitudes.
That was all I needed to hear. I said, "I'm going to throw out several expressions. Let me know if you've heard any of these from your employees." Then I listed them, one by one, such as:
When is management going to understand it's the real world down here?
Hard to find good people these days?
How do I get a job like my bosses where I don't have to know anything?
Just do it!
Why can't they leave well enough alone?
I am the boss!
Why does my boss continually pawn their work off on us?
The only time we get recognized around here is when we make a mistake?
I did my job.
Why do we always have to do things your way?
Both the CEO and VP nodded with conviction after each expression. Then the CEO said, "So, now you understand why we would like you to deliver a motivational speech to help inflate our tires."
I replied that the employees did not need a motivational speech, in my professional opinion. What the workers needed was help in learning how to communicate with one another. This was not an issue of flat tires. It was an issue of a failure to communicate, which is a common workplace problem, especially after a period of growth or change.
All examples of "poor morale" that the CEO and VP recognized were rooted in communication. Communication is the lifeblood of every organization. Poor communication causes friction, mistrust, frustration, anger, misunderstandings, mistakes, broken relationships, and decreased productivity. Credibility and trust between individuals cannot be earned from sending texts, emails, memos, or voicemails. It can only be reached during face-to-face interactions with our co-workers. Poor morale is often a symptom of poor communication.
As I told the CEO and VP, a motivational speech may help the employees feel suitable for a day or two, but if the day-to-day communications did not improve, they would simply wind up back at square one. In other words, did they want a Band-Aid or a cure?
To make a long story short, the CEO and VP of Operations asked that I create a fun, fast-moving presentation geared toward improving the employee's day-to-day communications that motivated employees to achieve results.
When I am flying across the country, I often think about that conversation, delivering my popular presentation, "What We've Got Here: is Failure to Communicate." This presentation depicts the realistic interactions of your employees' miscommunications and provides solutions so logical you will say to yourself, "Now why didn't I think of that?" Prerequisite: Sense of humor required.