The presidential debate last week demonstrated how important communication skills are. President Obama is generally thought of as a well-spoken man. During the debate he was anything but. The president was fumbling and looking down at the podium at his notes and maybe just an errant ink stain for all we know. The way he presented himself was in sharp contrast to a very sure Mitt Romney, who appeared confident, looking his audience in the eye–from the president to the moderator to the television viewers. GOP candidate Romney is certain to get a bump in the polls after the performance.
A performance was exactly what it was. Every day we all put on a little performance, for bosses and colleagues, for family and for our members and customers. Think about how you present yourself to all of your different audiences. Do you look them in the eye or stammer and stutter with eyes cast down?
How do you and your employees behave when addressing a member? It may not be that obvious. It may be something as minor as folding your arms when talking to them or a tone that give away the argument you had with your significant other this morning.
Whatever it is, try to set it aside and watch for minor clues that might give you away when dealing with others.
Following the debates came the interminable deluge of pundits putting their spin on things. Predictably, Fox News found Romney the clear winner and MSNBC declared President Obama earned a decisive victory. The more centric CNN leaned toward Romney. Look at why Fox and MSNBC’s positions predictable. It’s because that’s their brand. Everyone knew what to expect from them based on historic performance. Once an impression has been established it’s hard to shake–like the mental image of Chris Matthews getting a tingle in his leg when he thinks of President Obama.
Interestingly, CNN, generally considered to lean a bit left but is least biased of the cable news networks, is also the least successful network in terms of number of viewers. Consumers rail against the biased media franchise yet collectively consumers of that information prefer bias and demagoguery. How you present yourself and how you’re perceived are important but are not necessarily in lockstep with what you think you’re presenting.
Yahoo made a bold statement recently by hiring Marissa Mayer as its CEO while she was just 37 and pregnant. (She gave birth to a baby boy on Sunday, Sept. 30.) Immediately the questions flew about whether Yahoo was making a mistake hiring a pregnant woman who’d need maternity leave, become sleep deprived and might take off for general childcare. Others cast judgment that a new mother couldn’t possibly hold that type of job and be a good parent. Yahoo was prepared with a media blitz and pictures of a pregnant Mayer appeared everywhere. She was talking to numerous business and consumer news outlets, during each of which she presented herself as someone who had her act together. As long as the movie is as good as the trailer, it’s a very positive step for female executives, particularly mothers. Good performance and branding all around here.
The way you communicate in all ways by all employees says a lot about your credit union. Make sure your employees are building the right brand for your business. It may take some extensive training, particularly with your frontline staff, but they, and not a corporate edict or a blue and green logo, are building your brand.
Which brings branding down to the personal level, something our Not for CEOs session, designed to help young credit union professionals along their credit union career path, during the Credit Union Water Cooler Symposium is slated to address.
Decide the image you want to present to other people, whether colleagues, superiors or clients. How you speak communicates a lot, but how you appear does even more. Everyone has their own personal tastes and habits, but they need to realize how that may come across to others. You want to express how you feel about yourself but realize the impression that might leave on the person you’re meeting with. They may have an entirely different life experience than you and all the prejudices that come with it. In professional situations, drop the “I don’t care what other people think” routine. Fair or not, sometimes the right impression is what’s most important in business and in life.