Here is a guidebook for the change agents. For the occasional bearers of bad news. For the people expected to be the adults in the room.
“Raise Your Game, Not Your Voice: How Listening, Communicating, and Storytelling Shape Compliance Program Influence” is for the “guardians” of an organization. That’s what compliance expert and co-author Lisa Beth Lentini Walker says of her new book, written together with strategic communications consultant Stef Tschida.
Guardian professionals “tend to include information security, IT, finance, compliance, and ethics. Basically, they are the people who are constantly dealing with risk issues across the organization, and sometimes they have to deliver news that people might not want to hear,” Lentini Walker says. Whether it’s a new entrant to the workforce or someone who’s been around the block, the communication tools and techniques the authors package together, drawn from each’s own well of knowledge and expertise, are healthy refreshers and lessons for all.
“So many people think they’re good at communicating. Few people actually are without a lot of thought and effort,” Lentini Walker asserts. She’s not wrong. Crafting a polished email with all the trappings of corporate language is not communicating. Sending a message to hordes of employees without forethought about timing, target audience, or impact is not communicating.
People often confuse information and communication as interchangeable. They are not. Dispensing information is like operating a lawn mower; it moves one way. Communication is more like a dance, requiring a two-way exchange—a mutual engagement of the minds. Lentini Walker and Tschida deftly point out that without listening (or another type of feedback mechanism), there is no communication.
Tailored for compliance professionals, “Raise Your Game, Not Your Voice” provides a thorough framework for communicating up, down, and across an organization to establish buy-in of a compliance program, to drive comprehension and alignment, and to effect positive cultural and operational change.
The tips and tools range from the highly practical—each chapter includes action steps to guide readers toward mastery of their communication skills—to the philosophical. The authors draw from history, business, science, popular culture, and personal experience to bridge readers’ understanding of the concepts they put forth.
Take, for example, the chapter on intentional relationship management. Even the smoothest communicators cannot honestly say they survived unscathed from every single relationship (personal or professional) they ever cultivated. No one is immune to awkward encounters. The authors show how effective communication can help cultivate positive relationships in spite of apparent differences.
The key is engaging your emotional intelligence, the authors write. They map out five types of stakeholders found at every organization. Using the axes of “influence” and “support,” the authors identify “the champion” (high influence, high support); “the challenger” (high influence, low support); “the resilience” (low influence, high support); “the resistance” (low influence, low support); and “the neutral” (unknown influence, unknown support). Rather than write off any factions as dead ends, the authors provide advice on how to interact with each one to build their support of your compliance program. However, it’s not about being manipulative to gain sponsorship. It’s about being objective, observant, and open to their tough feedback.
“If someone has taken the time to give feedback, it is both a duty and an honor to listen to see how your work can be improved and better meet the needs of your audience,” the authors write.
What’s important for guardians—those organizational leaders with a bad rap for delivering bad news—to remember is that transparency is everything. Lentini Walker and Tschida caution readers not to be Debbie Downers nor overly optimistic Suzy Sunshines. Just keep it real.
“When it comes to communicating, clear is kind,” they write. Clear requires a degree of candor. Clear demands brevity of style, which is respectful of employees’ valuable time. And clear sends an important message: I am not an information-blocker. Clear inspires trust, and with trust comes investment, alignment, and transformational change.