13 Feb 2015

The Football Phone In

Driving home from work I listen to the football phone in on the radio. I can’t pretend to be a football fan and I definitely couldn't explain the offside rule to you so perhaps it’s a little odd that I enjoy the show so much. What I like the most is the passion in the voices of the pundits and callers as they mull over the same issues week in week out.  I love listening to the male voices talking with such belief or disdain at what happened on the pitch and the colourful analagies used to get their point across. I like that there’s no swearing and that people have to ‘agree to disagree’ and toe the line to stay on air. The pundits are on the ball (excuse the pun) giving everyone a say and adapting their tone to keep the show on track, lightening the mood with humour and cheeky banter when it all gets a bit heavy.

Listening to the voices the show seems inclusive with the young and old, happy and angry, enthusiastic and deflated phoning in to share an opinion. I love the fact that everyone is an expert coach or manager, talking openly and in all seriousness about who would and wouldn't get a place in their team. There’s talk of every aspect of the game, from finances to fitness levels and at all times performance is at the forefront of the discussion. Players are held up or knocked down in the blink of an eye and each week a caller claims their four year old grandchild could score more goals than a first division player. Fact. The banter is priceless.

My experience of the football phone in may be very different to yours because the opinions don’t provoke a reaction from me. I’m a mere listener tuning in whilst I sit in traffic. I don’t know anything about football but I do understand the value of communication and the role it plays in achieving success.

I've work with businesses large and small and I pay attention to how people interact. The management on the top floor, the hierarchy and the rumour mills. Some people are fiercely loyal and give 100% commitment, others show up on time but coast along as they feel overlooked, destined for the subs bench if their talent isn't nurtured soon.

I think large organisations and businesses going through periods of change could learn a lot from the way football pundits interact with callers. Does your business provide an opportunity for staff to have a voice and share their view?  Does your company provide information in advance of change or after it’s happened? Is the rumour mill impacting on morale? Are you talking to all teams or just senior management? Are you acknowledging loyalty and commitment? Most importantly… if criticism is constructive are you open to changing tactics and trying a different approach?

A client I worked closely with involved the entire workforce in early stage product development. The client was developing a new food product and over a one week period invited every department to the kitchen to taste the product. The entire staff from delivery drivers to the CEO were invited to give opinions on flavour, packaging, design and product name. The feedback contributed to making the final version which is on the supermarket shelves today. This approach ensured that the entire team was aware of the new product, given accurate information and could pass that personal experience on to the customer. Was the team motivated? Yes. Did they feel valued? Yes. Did they work harder to ensure the product launch met the deadline? Yes.

A larger client with thousands of staff emailed a weekly newsletter which no-one ever read. It was too long and frankly pretty dull. The revised monthly version consisted of bullet points with key messages, photos or a video and concluded with positive customer comments taken from social networks praising individuals and teams for customer service. The response went from offside to back of the net.

Of course not all of the messages management deliver are positive. Change can be met with a red card but if your business puts communication at the heart of its culture you are more likely to create a loyal staff and a strong support team who will invest energy into overcoming challenges and climbing to the top of the league.

Need a fresh pair of eyes to look at your communications and marketing strategy? Get in touch.

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