If you have any doubt at all that having and enforcing document policies is important, then spend a little time on the political pages of your local newspaper or on the Web. Story after story depicts folly after folly, and a lot of the time, the issues underneath are just like yours:
So I’ve decided that my next few posts will be dedicated to Political Folly, with today’s entry dedicated to the need to extend your policies – by influence if not by contract – to the people and parties you work with on the outside.
These folks aren’t usually under your control, but they can seriously affect your business if they don’t follow your lead in all the important areas. So it’s up to you to figure out how to get them to do so – at least enough of the time to keep their actions from getting you in trouble.
(Republican) Party On, Dude
The story that sparked today’s thought involves a casting call for a Republican party TV commercial in Pennsylvania that told the actors “We are going for a ‘Hicky’ Blue Collar look. […] The characters are from West Virginia, so think coal miners and truckers,” the document said, and it included a long list of clothing suggestions that made it easy for Democrats to paint the GOP candidate as someone who doesn’t understand the people.
In the end, the Republicans pulled the ad, claiming it was for reasons of rotating in new ones. But damage was clearly done even though they weren’t directly at fault.
The problem, as was famously articulated in the movie Cool Hand Luke, was that they clearly suffered “a failure to communicate.” The production company and the politicos certainly were working closely together – just as you collaborate with your various groups of interested parties. But something happened somewhere, and my guess is that it was the production company’s failure to appreciate where the Republicans were coming from that did the trick.
Translating this into business-speak, the lesson is that you have to put yourself in your partners’ shoes every step along the way – and encourage them to do the same for you. I say leading by example is the best way! Role play with them … follow them around the office for a day … ask them to explain not only what they’re doing, but why, and why they use the terms they do to describe it.
Do everything in your power to understand where they’re coming from, and you’ll find that human nature will push them a long way toward doing the same for you. This isn’t to say you’ll never have to give some people a shove – you will – but if they understand you better, you’ll avoid a lot of fallout stemming from them saying or doing things that will come back to haunt you later on.
Otherwise, you run the risk of ending up like a certain former political commercial director I read about …
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