When Marketing in the Round was published, all I could think about was breaking down organizational silos to create a marketing round, or a team that works together in a circle instead of in a hierarchy.
It’s the main theme of the book and it’s been widely debated in the past four years.
Is it possible to have an organization without silos?
Is it possible to have an organization where people from different disciplines sit on one team?
Is it possible to have an organization where more than one person knows how to do a job?
Working with clients on this very idea for nearly 10 years now, I know it is possible, but I’ll admit it’s not easy work.
Command and Control Style of Leadership is Defunct
But I’m not the only one who believes this.
In a Harvard Business Review article (in the print edition so I can’t link to it), they say:
One-way, top-down communication between leaders and their employees is no longer useful or even realistic.
Which means silos have to be broken at the very top and permeate through the entire organization.
The command and control style of management has become less and less viable in recent years, and the idea behind marketing in a round is more doable than one might think (although, will continue to debate because change, man, it’s hard).
I’d argue this is because technology is changing so quickly that organizations have to be nimble and flexible enough to react and adapt to new tools and platforms if they want to not only interact in real-time with customers, but also grow.
And, in order to do that, leaders have to communicate in a way that is more dynamic and sophisticated…it has to be a process that becomes a conversation.
Remember the Four Is of Leadership
There are four ways to form a single integrated process for communication for leaders. They include:
Intimacy, as you can surmise, is all about getting close to your team. This is less about giving orders and more about asking and answering questions.
It’s about gaining trust, listening well, and getting personal.
But not in a, “Do you want to come over to dinner on Sunday night?” kind of personal. Rather, learning what kind of job you’re doing as a leader.
The former CEO of Duke Energy, Jim Rogers, did this by instituting listening sessions while he was there.
Not only did he invite participants to raise pressing issues, where he learned things that might have otherwise escaped his attention, he solicited feedback on his own performance.
Interactivity is about promoting dialogue, which means leaders spend time listening, exchanging comments, and asking questions. They do not do all the talking. They do not issue orders.
Of course, if your organization is accustomed to the command and control approach, it’s going to be a culture change (which is always very, very difficult) to create interactivity.
It’s actually your job, as a communications professional, to work with executives on making this change.
You’ll need to find a handful of people who are willing to take the risk and speak their minds. This has to happen for the rest of the organization to see it’s safe to have a conversation with leaders without getting in trouble or, worse, fired.
Inclusion means expanding roles inside the organization. Social media has already enabled this to some degree through brand ambassadors, thought leaders, and storytellers.
Of course, a company’s best brand ambassadors are those who work inside. If they don’t feel passionate about the company’s products or services, how can you expect your customers to want to buy from you?
And, while this may make some of you mad because you do this for a living, the best thought leadership comes from deep inside an organization, not from PR firms or consultants who write speeches and white papers for clients.
Empowering employees to create and promote stories that develop brand ambassadors and thought leaders is the best way to include everyone and break down the control and command leadership style.
And last, but certainly not least, comes intentionality, which means you can have open and honest discussion, but there must always be a reason for it.
For instance, one of the things we do at Arment Dietrich is discuss issues only if there is a solution.
We’ve talked about this before, but my favorite question is, “What do you think?”
This allows the opportunity to have a discussion with all four of these, while finding a solution that works for the organization.
I never mind the discussion about the issues or challenges someone is having, as long as they’ve thought through some possible solutions. But venting for venting sake does not mean intentionality and it has no place in the organizational conversation.
It’s no longer enough to encourage your chief executives to leave their offices and walk the building.
Now they have to create organizations where it is safe to have honest and transparent conversations.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?