Transparent CommunicationsFebruary 28th, 2012 by DWM Magazine
While I never blog about company related items, I do think that the past two weeks have reminded us of something important. For us, two items: The FTC ruling about energy pledges and the Chicago plant news story. While I am not speaking for the company here, both of these subjects reminded me to discuss open, transparent, accurate communication.
The Chicago plant issue was miscommunication at the local level. Once senior management got involved from corporate headquarters everything was cleared up and everyone went home. Thank goodness. We love all our employees and we were reminded how quickly a few people can confuse an issue, even by accident.
In the same way the FTC ruling was in essence about transparent and clear communications … in this case to customers. I might summarize it by stating: using the words “up to” now means “most of the customers will achieve this” to the FTC, rather than what “up to” might mean in general conversational English. Ok, good learning for all of us, and certainly clears up any chance of unmet expectations by consumers through communication … and that was the point. Clear, open, honest, accurate advertising without spin.
Whether we are communicating to a board of directors, our supervisors, or out to dealers or customers or our employees, we had better have a no-spin zone around the words we use. It is very easy to get fired up about a topic and over-sell. We are all guilty of that at times (I certainly am). But the people around us, our employees, dealers, customers, want open and honest and factual communication without a millimeter of spin attached. Communicating in this way builds trust and over time, and strong follow-ship.
We have all had customers that somehow got some windows that, well, were not the very best we had made. Statistically maybe it is only 1 percent, but as hard as we try it is never 0 percent. So how can we handle that best? Open, honest, factual communications: “we screwed up, we made junk, we figured out what happened and it won’t happen again and we will get you new windows immediately.” Ok, I am being a little harsh with the junk word … but truthfully I have seen “junk” come out of everyone’s factory at times. Rare maybe, but it happens and we are embarrassed. The best producers will own up to it immediately and correct it just as fast. And communicate with honesty at every step. And we have seen people that don’t do that … and it doesn’t end well.
So lets call March “open and honest communication month” and each take an extra second to be sure we are in a complete no-spin zone. Call out the facts and work together for resolutions. Be transparent with real data. Share the good with the bad. Whether it is management, the FTC, customers, employees, dealers, boards–we all will leave March with a renewed sense of trust and accomplishment and camaraderie. And what can be wrong with that?