Business and politics -- same, similar or different? That's part of what we're trying to figure out today, through this election, and this blog is no place to talk about it. Instead, let's remind ourselves that everything we do in Compensation is communication. And remember that, at any given time, we might not win a popular vote in our organizations (in spite of the Total Rewards that we dole out).
There are lessons that we can learn from the campaign that will help us -- and HR -- become far more effective at leadership. One of the most important lessons is one that President Obama himself is learning.
I wouldn't be surprised if most everyone who specializes in Compensation wouldn't find themselves in his shoes under the same circumstances.
'It was the job of the president, Obama said, to "tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism,"' and this was where he had fallen short, he admitted. This was the candid intro to the article, "Still Waiting for the Narrator in Chief," by Matt Bai in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Obama's was admitting that this mistake has cost him support (and didn't have to, if he had handled it better).
Support for his policies, decisions, administration and leadership. All of which are challenges that HR and our business leaders face every day. So I'm suggesting that we listen and see what we can learn. Look at the problems that have been ascribed to the President's communications style to see how many can apply to our situation in Compensation.
Compensation plays the role of articulating key policies that are meant to keep our (company's) economy chugging along. Policies like setting objectives that have impact, collaborating for success and investing (in people) for the long-term good.
Here are some of the observations on the administration's communication weaknesses. Check out how well they could apply to communications for Compensation and other areas of HR.
"They think very little about how to build support for the governing agenda." Matt Bai
'"They haven't talked about how the pieces of the puzzle fit together and move us forward from where we've been . . ."' Don Baer
'"It's been random and unconnected . . . For a narrative to work, a president has to be extremely repetitive."' David Gergen
There are other insights in this article, but let's just take a look at these three and think about how well they suit our Compensation communication work. It's a close fit, if you ask me. And we wonder why we keep running into low support and high frustration.
Let's turn what Matt Bai says in the article, " . . . An election result isn't a final verdict on one governing philosophy over another, but rather a signal that your voters have agreed to hear your case . . ." into HR speak. It would go like this, "When employees join your company, it isn't a final, absolute verdict on your company's leadership, principles or business goals. But it is a signal that they have agreed to hear your case."
Now you take it from here and rework the rest of his observation about communications, "Once you're in office, the story you tell about and to the country isn't some barely tolerable performance that distracts you from the job of being president. It is, to a large extent, the presidency itself."
(Who gave me the right to talk to you about this? Everything I do is communication. I have been an HR campaign strategist, copywriter, speechwriter, executive coach, media director, promoter, trainer and event coordinator for all things Total Rewards for over 25 years.)
Margaret O'Hanlon is founder and Principal of re:Think Consulting. She joined Ann Bares and Dan Walter of the Compensation Cafe to speak the unspoken -- "Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communication" -- at the WorldatWork 2012 Conference. Margaret brings deep expertise in total rewards communications and change management to the dialog at the Café. Before founding re:Think Communications Consulting, she was a Principal in Total Rewards Communications and Change Management with Towers Watson. Margaret is Deputy Director of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Pacific Plains Region. She earned her M.S. and Ed.S. in Instructional Technology at Indiana University, Bloomington. Creative writing is one of her outside passions, along with Masters Swimming.