Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Small teams can engage with a large vision

Ask any member of my 6 member, all female team what’s our corporate mission is and they’ll tell you it is to be the best PR firm in the country within the next five years. Ask them how we are going to get there and they’ll spout off the 6 defining principles which they helped draft. Finally, ask them how they, as employees, connect to our overarching mission to be the best, and they’ll share the company motivators, the pay scale factor and our employee ladder. They can say these things with confidence because they are fully engaged with the objectives of the business.

I am not sure when it happened. How as a small firm I built a cadre of engaged employees. It certainly did not happen overnight but over long conversations and meeting about the change in our direction (we always wanted to remain small) and what it would take for us to get there. What I know for sure is that my firm offers them a belief in a possibility. A working towards a common goal. A promise that we will get there and that when we do the reward will be there for everyone. What I offer is engagement.

Employee engagement is not an esoteric thing. There are always tangible ways to do a temperature check. La Toya, our projects co-coordinator stays late every day for one month to work on a big project. Jamila, an assistant does not complete any task without asking the core questions that are at the heart of our company’s growth. Alicia, our accountant, volunteers on our PR projects when we are in a crunch, without being asked.

My senior consultants and I know that there is a wide gap between compliance and commitment. The subtle difference is that even though the job gets done with compliance, creativity and passion are missing, so too is the enthusiasm. And the consequence is often devastating:

Employee disengagement signifies:
• Poor understanding about how an individual’s work connects to
the purposes of the company.
• Poor, limited communication with team members about the purpose
of the organization, its strategies, challenges, strengths, weaknesses,
• Expectations aren’t properly set in the minds of all staff members,
resulting in disappointment, frustration or resentment.
• There’s an imbalanced focus on short-term achievement, instead
of long-term thinking.

A key building block for engagement is to have your employee’s execution be tied to something tangible like a reward. But even more important there is need for your staff to have clarity on why they are doing what they are doing. Research shows that less than 5% of the typical workforce understands their organization’s strategy. For instance, I found that when I explained our company’s 5 year objective and linked it back to our mission and identified everyday tactics that employees could do to help us achieve it, staff productivity shot up by 15%.

As a small sized business flexibility is perhaps our greatest strength it is easy enough for us to get in at the “ground level” and build the kind of understanding that really unleashes the innovative potential of our team. Yes, the mission is important but sharing that mission and cultivating understanding is perhaps even more critical when it comes to building an engaged team.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

IABC T&T AGM's speech

Editor of the Express Newspapers, Allan Geere

Fellow Board Leaders of the International Association of Business Communicators, Trinidad and Tobago Chapter

Members of IABC T&T

Friends and Guests

Ladies and gentlemen

Thanks so much for being here at our Association’s first annual general meeting.

Two weeks ago I returned from IABC’s international conference in New Orleans and a funny thing kept happening…..

A strange thing kept occurring each time I introduced myself as the president of IABC Trinidad and Tobago. You see each time I said the name of our country the person to whom I was introducing myself would say something like: Oh so you’re from Trinidad and Tobago, I hear your chapter is doing some wonderful things, and in other cases I would be offered congratulations for some of the specific projects we had completed.

Of course, praise, especially when you do volunteer work is a wonderful thing to receive. I am certainly am not immune to it. But what struck me as I received congratulations for our work was that our voice, the voice of IABC Trinidad and Tobago was being heard globally.

And that as a Chapter, one of the newest on the block, our voices, well… our voices matter. This is no small accomplishment in light of the fact that there are 100 IABC chapters located in every corner of the globe.

My trip to New Orleans served as real affirmation of our work. Let me get straight to the questions that often bubble at a meeting such as this..

Has IABC T&T first board been active? You bet.
Have we surpassed the expectations and objectives that were set forth in our 2006 strategic document? You bet.
Have we given members the content, credibility and connections to succeed in their career? You bet
Has our work been noticed in the global network that comprises some 14000 members from every continent in the planet. The answer is an unequivocal yes. And I can prove it.

In New Orleans I was told by IABC’s incoming chair that our Chapter is eligible to take part in the Chapter of the Year Awards in 2008 … a huge honour considering that our Chapter is just 12 months old ..

IABC T&T is also being considered for full fledged Chapter status 12 months earlier than when it is customary to bestow such an honour. This is based just on our accomplishments…let me list just some of them …I get a real kick tooting IABC T&T’s horn

• Earlier this year the IABC T&T board met President George Maxwell Richard and presented our vision for our Association
• Our membership has increased by 150 % with the membership renewal rate being steady at 100%. Within the past ten days alone we had seven new members join us and our membership currently stands at close to sixty.
• Our professional development programmes have an 89% positive rating
• Our accounts are healthy and show promising signs of future positive growth
• Our student Chapter is about to be initiated with 5 members joining us at the end of July
• We use the wisdom of the web to communicate including a web site, a President’s blog and a soon to be released podcast. Our material is archived on an fttp site allowing for easy succession planning

It has not been all smooth sailing. Just this week I was talking to one of members in Advertising and she was saying to me that she had to consciously carve the time in her schedule in order to connect with both the Association and its members.

And therein lies the challenge the most obvious being how do we as a Board continue to keep you, our members engaged in the face of increasing work loads, family commitments knowing full well that we are, all of us, trying to find the magic bullet that will somehow miraculously balance our work and life commitments.

The fact is even as the strength of IABC T&T continues to be centered within the core of its various committees there is recognition that our volunteerism habits are mirroring the general pace of our lifestyles and that there is need for another type of volunteer i.e. Individuals who are seeking out drive-by volunteer opportunities, these members usually want responsibilities and commitments that are fast and that can be quickly executed within a specific time frame

As we flesh out the various needs of the committees in the next 6 weeks in preparation for our year ahead, I can tell you that IABC will have room for both… the enduring volunteer who want to make great impact in moving our profession forward and the drive by volunteer who has a lot to give but in a shorter time frame. For us to continue to grow I believe that the two types must comfortably co-exist within IABC T&T

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen I’ve arrived at what is my absolutely favourite part of the evening… the part where I get to say thanks to several persons and I will begin with the founding members of IABC T&T by asking them to stand as I call their names, Executive VP Maria Mc Mc Millan, VP of Administration Maria Mohammed, VP of Professional Development Wynelle Gregorio, VP of Membership Giselle La Ronde West, VP of Finance Alicia Lewis and VP of Communication Dawn- Marie Gill … ….

On behalf of the members of the International Association of Business Communicators thanks you so much….Ladies and Gentlemen please join me in saying thank you for their selfless acts of quiet purpose and dedication which often follow their strong convictions and passion for the communication, marketing profession..

I am going to ask that remain standing and I am going to ask those of you who have assumed leadership positions at committee level to join them by standing … if you have volunteered at our events, planned our meetings, worked at the committee level, Please stand. Ladies and gentlemen , once again, please join me in saying thanks to them. The people before you make IABC T&T such a special Chapter. Without them, our association of communication marketing and advertising professionals could not exist.

Thank you…..

The IABC T&T begins planning for its term later this month and joining us will be 3 new Vice Presidents… our new VP of Branding and Visual Communication is Brevard Nelson of Guardian Holdings Limited, our VP of Administration is Wendy Bishop the Sponsorship and Advertising manager at UTC and Dexter Charles Group Communication Manager of First Citizens will join us as our Sponsorship and Advertising Vice President …Maria Mohammed, our former VP of Administration will serve as our new VP of Future Communication and Social Media

Welcome to the team…
So we are on our way… our year 2007-2008 which will culminate in our 2008 Communication Summit. As I anticipate my year ahead...

I encourage you to log on to use the international web site to your own advantage
I encourage you to read the book that IABC read the books that IABC publishes
I encourage you to get familiar with your local chapter mission, vision
I encourage to volunteer your time and become invloved.

We're all very busy people. But we need you to invest some time if we're going to make this a better profession and a better business for ourselves and the people behind us. It has to be done collaboratively – whether you are a drive-by volunteer or of the enduring kind.

I look forward to the year ahead.