Overheard in the Hall: Strike That, Reverse It!

Every internal comms planning session I’ve ever been in inevitably gets around to how we can use managers to drive communication to frontline employees. We develop five or six tactics for that group then move on to the next planning challenge. We check that box and move on. As if simply checking that box makes it a done deal.

But when we do that, we make a lot of assumptions about those managers…the most egregious one being that they actually have time to do any of the things we’ve come up with.

Just like us, they have a ton of stuff on their plates and probably about two dozen bosses breathing down their necks. Adding one more thing to their plates (much less five or six!) that they are expected to somehow squeeze in is pretty callous on our part.

Just like when Willy Wonka said “there’s so much time and so little to do” then realized his error and corrected himself with “strike that, reverse it,” perhaps we should strike that and reverse our own approach to activating managers as communicators.

Because for our frontline managers, there isn’t so much time and so little to do. The opposite is, in fact, quite true. They have too many meetings, too many calls, too many reports, and too many non-value-added tasks they have to slog through every day. And all of these are pure drudgery for them.

So rather than adding more things to their plates without even asking, how about we first get to know them and help them figure out how better to handle and remove some of the things that are already there? Once we partner with them, truly understand their roles and their needs , and help them be better managers and leaders, we can give them something that’s extremely valuable to them: more time.

Then, having given them something extremely valuable, maybe, just maybe they’ll be more cooperative and receptive to helping us do our comms things.

Think about it: in that Willy Wonka movie, Charlie won in the end simply because he thought of someone else first when he gave his Everlasting Gobstopper back to Mr. Wonka.

What selfless thing can you do for your frontline managers that will earn you their trust and appreciation and unlock the whole chocolate factory for you?