Simon Sinek’s TED talk is one of their most watched talks for a reason. He hits a chord – people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And he did it at the perfect time. How and why humans make decisions is not only being studied more and more, but it’s accessible to and understood by the masses, not just behavioral economists like Daniel Kahneman. I was recently re-watching Sinek’s talk and found myself inspired (truth is, that happens every time I watch him speak). People constantly ask “what do you do?” but the answer to that, at least for me, falls flat. Rather, it’s the much more interesting “why do you do what you do?” that I find myself trying to answer with.
Punit Soni, co-founder and lead at Suki, captures it well in a recent interview with First Round Review: As with most organizational problems, he found the solution came down to communication. “Whether you're in a big company or a small startup, a leader's first job is to create a communication map. Without that, the business can’t run — culture goes to dogs and bad decisions get made,” he says.
I truly believe that. The way people, teams and organizations communicate can have a huge impact on the outcome. In fact, it can be the key factor that drives (or prevents) result(s). I’ve worked with and for a lot of companies over the years, and can say that, for the majority, many of the issues holding them back are rooted in communication. For example:
Inauthentic and inaccurate messaging during the recruiting and hiring process. This leads to poor employee satisfaction, high turn-over, misaligned goals/work.
Lack of transparency from leadership. When employees or customers don’t know the company’s direction or vision, they can’t convey or buy into them. Inconsistent experiences, rumors and misalignment abound.
Disbelief in or lack of commitment to communication/process as a priority. As many companies have to move quickly to keep up, they often risk overlooking strategies and tactics that are critical. For example, taking time to identify and talk to the audience(s) and/or those who will be impacted by a project.
Misaligned expectations. When executives want (or demand) certain results – for example, top-tier media placements – but don’t appreciate or take the time to understand what is required to do so, time is wasted and goals aren’t met. (And, in some cases, reputations tarnished.)
Prioritize external at the peril of internal. Terra Carmichael (VP of Communications at Eventbrite) sums it up perfectly: “I’ve long believed that internal comms is often overlooked,” says Carmichael. “Too many executives either don't make the time, or think about it as an afterthought or nice-to-have. But in my view, employees really should be your number one audience, especially as you scale. It’s absolutely critical that you communicate with them authentically and often."
My passion is ignited when I get to work with companies or organizations to identify where and what they want to be and lay out a path to get there. I love helping them connect with their audiences in ways that drive results – whether that’s elevated employee satisfaction, consistent client experience or increased sales.
I do what I do because I believe every company has the potential to be more intentional and effective in their communications. I also believe most companies are simply moving too quickly to slow down (or even know to slow down) to evaluate their efforts.
The truth is that many companies don’t think about strategic communications as their Trojan horse. I am on a professional mission to change that.