Getting the Troops to Understand You [ Part I ]

by Pamela A. Scott,

Today’s piece is about you. And so is next month’s, because this topic is too important to convey in one posting.

I was meeting with this week with Glenn, CEO and owner of a midsize engineering firm. Here’s what happened.


“Pam, I really need your help,” Glenn said. “Every January I give a state of the company address to the troops. The usual stuff: how we did last year, where we’re going this year, how excited/optimistic/cautious I am about the future, and so on. And for the next 12 months, every year, managers and staff ask me where we’re going, how we’re doing, etc.

“What am I doing wrong? I keep telling them what they want to know, but nobody seems to get it.”

What’s Going On

This example demonstrates why communicating effectively is so tough. Think about these points.

Nobody – and I mean nobody — has the same perspective as you. As CEO, you see how myriad pieces come together. You really are alone in this position.

Your managers have been told, but they are human beings—they have their own concerns. They each have their own turf or silo to take care of and be held accountable for.

Your general staff knows what they do on a daily basis—get in by 8 a.m., out by 5:30 with luck, make calls, take care of the project, do great engineering.

What To Do So They Get It

Start with asking yourself some critical audience analysis questions.

What do they (your managers, staff, and/or stockholders)

  • Already know?
  • Want to know?
  • Not want to know?
  • Need to know?
  • Not need to know?

When you, the CEO, speak, it’s like hearing the booming voice of the wizard in “The Wizard of Oz.” Everyone is wary, particularly in a tough economy. So you have to think through the perspectives of everyone in your audience and figure out to deliver your message. This applies whether you are in a small firm or a multistate firm with hundreds of employees. No one can read your mind.

We’ll cover more on this next month. Clear communication from the CEO is absolutely essential for a firm to be successful.

If you found these tips from Pam Scott of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at


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