By Tom Davidson
As a manager, you are now the primary spokesperson to and for your employees! Continuing from part 1 of this series, this post looks at how to prepare for this role.
Whether you have 2 minutes or 2 weeks, prepare to speak with your employees like a pro, and you’ll improve your chances of success by orders of magnitude. You might get away with winging it for a while, but this is a bad habit to break and one that will eventually bite you in the behind!
In case you missed my point in Part 1 of this blog series, you might have been promoted to management based on your technical skills or individual accomplishment, but you have a new responsibility that is unlikely to be found in your job description. It’s this. YOU are now the primary spokesperson for you organization. It’s just that your audience is your employees, and they have the ultimate power to shape or break your culture, public image and public permission to operate your enterprise.
Here are three things to do to prepare for your employee interactions, whether they are one-on-one encounters or large group meetings:
1. Determine the key points you want to make, no matter what questions are asked. Every interaction is an opportunity, even the hard ones. But you’ll never capitalize on it if you don’t have a clear picture of the point or points you want to get across. Therefore develop one to three key points that you will weave into the conversation and refer back to when asked questions. You are not just a scribe or question taker; you are also and always your organization’s frontline spokesperson. So act like it.
2. Anticipate the questions you are likely to be asked. As the manager, you should be familiar with what’s on people’s mind about any organizational subject. At the very least, you have your own questions and concerns to inform your thinking, and, if you have some time, you can always do some simple research to find out what people are thinking and what they probably want to know about a give subject or situation. To do this, make a list of 20 questions you are likely to be asked and write out the answers you plan to give (not that you will read them out loud but by writing them down you force yourself to think them through or get them checked out in advance).
3. Think of the hardest question you might be asked. Don’t assume you won’t be asked hard questions; you will. Don’t assume that people won’t think of (or ask) an embarrassing, politically sensitive, or otherwise pointed question; they will. Don’t let your senior leaders tell you, “They won’t ask that.” If your leadership says that to you, then you’d better get ready, because that’s EXACTLY the question you better prepare for, the one they don’t want to hear.
No matter how much time you have to prepare, take these three steps to prepare yourself to face your most important public, your employees. They are a sophisticated bunch with finely tuned radar for BS and sidestepping. Likewise, employees respect a manager who respects their questions enough to anticipate them and give them sound answers when they want them.
Have you ever faced an audience of one or 1000 employees without being prepared in this way? What did you learn and how do you now prepare in advance?