When the Spokesperson is YOU – Part 3 Get the Most Out of Every Opportunity

By Tom Davidson

In part 3 of When the Spokesperson is YOU, we will look at the three key behaviors you need to learn, practice, and deliver when you find yourself in a spokesperson role.

 As we’ve been discussing in this week’s blog series, new managers (and many experienced ones) are often ill-prepared for one particular aspect of their jobs, the one that requires them to be the spokesperson to the organization’s most important audience, your employees! In Part 1, I outlined the importance of the role, including the “Do’s and Don’ts.” In Part 2, you read the three key steps for preparing to interact with one to 1000 employees, whether you have two minutes or two weeks.

In today’s blog, you will learn the three key behaviors you need to learn, practice, and deliver when you find yourself in a spokesperson situation, which is anytime you speak with employees. Here they are:

    1. Understand and Answer the Actual Question. Before you do anything with a question, make sure you understand exactly what it is and that it’s not an opinion disguised as a question. Listen to it. Search for it. Use a notepad, flip chart of other devise to write down the question. Restate it in your own words if you aren’t absolutely sure you know what the questioner meant. This signals your audience that you are listening and that you want to get it right, and it’s another way of checking what you heard. You could be opening new and unwanted “cans of worms” prematurely if you don’t understand the intended question.
    1. Don’t Guess at the Answer. No matter how well prepared you might be, you’ll eventually be surprised by a question. If you don’t know the answer, don’t wing it. The urge to “be smart” and have an answer for everything is a strong one, but don’t let it get the best of you. No one thinks everyone knows everything all the time. Your employee rating as an honest communicator will go up instead of down, as long as you get the answer later and get back to them in a timely way.
  1. Bridge to One or More of Your Key Points. Every question is an opportunity, not just to convey needed information to the questioner but to make an important point on behalf of yourself or the organization. Refer to Part 2 of this blog series for more information, but during the preparation phase, you will have developed one to three key message points to weave into the conversation. These are not just part of your opening and closing statements when they exist; they are repeatedly (and in different words) attached to your answers through a technique known as “bridging.” Simply put, answer the question, and while you’re still talking and have other’s attention, transition logically and smoothly to one of your key points. If you take 20 questions and bridge to one of your three key points each time you give an answer, you will have repeated your key points about seven times each.

As a manager, a big part of your job is two-way communication. In this blog series, I’ve outlined the importance of the manager’s role as spokesperson, one you may not have been prepared for before your promotion. By following the guidelines in this three-part blog series, you will earn the respect you need, answer the questions your employees want addressed, and delivered the important points your organization is trying to get out to their most important audience, YOUR employees!

When did you first discover that you were not only a manager but one of your organization’s official spokespersons? What have you learned about it the hard way? What additional tips do you have for other new or experienced managers in a similar situation?

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