Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Communicators: Know When To Shut Up

"Big Mouth" by Hiba Tim via (Creative Commons)

One of the more annoying things communicators tend to say is:

"If Only I Had A Seat At The Table."

Loosely translated this means something like--
  • "I am so smart about communication things..." (because I've written about fifty thousand factsheets)
  • "I know so much about how people RELATE to one another..." (based on instinct, opinion and the latest survey results from the Partnership for Public Service published in Federal Times)
  • "If only the bosses would LISTEN to me..." (wah, wah)
I've heard communicators make this complaint in person, on the Internet, and in numerous books. And I honestly can't understand the dire need communicators have to tell businesspeople what to do.

Lawyers don't tell businesspeople what to do. They simply offer advice. Because lawyers know:

Specialists know their specialty.

Communicators know communication.

Businesspeople know the business.

Now before you jump down my throat and say I've betrayed the communication's blue wall of silence consider this:

Even if you have the know-how -- do you have the stomach to run a business?
  • Will your family tolerate you up at 3 a.m. checking on the state of the servers?
  • Are you capable of hiring people you don't like, and firing people that you do, just for the sake of productivity?
  • Could you handle your face on the cover of Fast Company with a headline like "What Went Wrong With Company X?"
If your honest answer is "yes, I do want to run the business" then you probably should be running one -- rather than serving as its communicator.

If however you understand that your place is to support those who do run the business, then you have to let them run it -- without second-guessing everything they do.

While it's true that businesspeople frequently don't understand the HOW of communication, they do respect its importance and specialization as a field.

It's important that communicators mutually respect that businesspeople know their subject matter.

And then stick to their knitting.