EVEN INSECTS CAN TEACH US ABOUT BUSINESS. One lazy Sunday afternoon, I spilled Coca-Cola on the kitchen counter. Here’s the scene. I’m darting from the fridge to glass cupboard holding a two-litre bottle, as I call out to my wife who still sits before the TV, “What’s happening?” Apparently it was something good, because I slopped the Coke into the glass, as well as the counter, and returned without cleaning up the mess. An hour later, when the show was over, I returned to the kitchen to find a line of ants marching to the comparative ‘pond’ of liquid sugar, and then back again, back to their hive, presumably. All this coordination in an hour!
Now ask yourself, if faced with a business opportunity, in this case a food source, could your company or department muster the resources necessary to take advantage of the situation, move in, and collect?
…could your company or department muster the resources necessary to take advantage of the situation, move in, and collect?
TALK stands for ‘tell’, ‘ask’, ‘listen’, and ‘know’. I created it back in 2006 as a response of being frustrated with staff members working independently, and thinking only for themselves. The tipping point occurred during the set up of a social networking event for our key influencers and clients at Number 5 bar on the Bund in Shanghai. I was setting up a two-by-two metre banner with a colleague, when my sales team arrived. I was surprised to see that they were all empty handed – void of sales information and marketing collateral. When I asked the most senior sales person her response shocked me. “Nobody told us!” she said in defense. This was at least the tenth event of this nature that we had done. Hadn’t they realised by now? I exploded, and instantly regretted my reaction. The sales team was demotivated only minutes before the first of sixty or so customers were to arrive. There had to be a better way to influence my team positively, I thought. That’s when I developed TALK.
Once this acronym is taught to a small number of staff it quickly reaches critical mass and changes company culture.
Tell encourages you to share your thoughts and information. Nothing is too trivial with Tell. As you pass people in the tea room you’ll naturally pass on some business news you think might be of relevance. With Tell everyone becomes a conduit of information allowing news to travel fast. Note though, that Tell is not gossip or hearsay. It’s information that the other person might find useful.
Another way to Tell is via Skype or other instant messenger software. These programs allow staff to announce where they are and what you’re doing with an editable field under or beside their name. As my staff books my time for meetings, they can plan ahead, without my involvement, and book me for meetings on Wednesday through to Friday.
As my staff books my time for meetings, they can plan ahead, without my involvement, and book me for meetings on Wednesday through to Friday.
Another lesser known software that helps with TELLing, is Yammer. Now owned by Microsoft, the software can be compared to a type of internal LinkedIn or Facebook. Only staff sharing the same email suffix (eg. @clarkmorgan.com, @ibm.com) can join a company’s Yammer, making it secure. And like LinkedIn and Facebook, updates, pictures, documents, and even videos can be uploaded and shared. ClarkMorgan uses Yammer to discuss and publish sales, marketing, financial documents and support. It’s also the first place to go for policies. And best of all it is (currently) free!
I blew my top when my senior sales person responded with, “Nobody told us!”, and after I calmed down I vowed that I would never hear those words again. That’s the role of Ask. If you don’t know, Ask. If you forget, Ask. If you forget again, Ask again. The idea of Ask is that it is okay to ask any number of times and nobody can tell you, “I already told you!” Why? Because of the Tell in TALK. And Ask also means that you, or anyone in your organisation, can’t escape responsibility by saying, “nobody told me!” Why? Because you should have Asked! Tell and Ask go hand in hand.
In our modern world with mobile phones, SMS, Weixin and other instant messengers, it’s easy to forget our manners when talking face to face. No doubt you’ve been in a meeting when someone’s mobile phone has rung. Perhaps they even answered it.
Listening is not useful unless the message is understood.
Listen also means ‘active’ listening. Active listening involves body language, short comments such as ‘right’, ‘okay’ and ‘ah’, as well as clarification. “So what you are saying is, we should not invest in this bond? Right” Listening is not useful unless the message is understood.
If you ‘T’, ‘A’, and ‘L’, then you will Know what is happening in your organisation, and Know what opportunities are present. It allows your organisation to function much more efficiently through better communication skills, and moves the role of knowledge sharing from the few to the many. Knowing is how those ants were able to take advantage of the Coca-Cola within an hour. Knowing will make their organisation prosper.
In order to get TALK practiced within your organisation, senior management must start using the lingo in their daily communication, whether that is spoken or e-mailed. TALK signs should also be placed around your workplace, and the company handbook should also promote the acronym as a virtue. At ClarkMorgan, we go one step further, and present the TALK Award to key staff who have demonstrated it in action. So now you Know. Go and Tell your team to start TALKing!