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Karaoke Communication - Don't Be a Talking Head

About seven years ago, I went to a club to see a Guns n’ Roses tribute band.  As we walked in through the front door and past the bouncer, we strolled through the Karaoke bar next to the main room.  Low and behold there was some poor sap up on stage singing “Sweet Child of Mine”.  Painful, is putting it lightly.  Karaoke is an example of a fun activity to get friends together or inhumane torture depending upon who is holding the microphone.  As we scurried into the main room, we were able to escape the screeching of a poorly executed falsetto.  The tribute band, on the other hand, was excellent.  The singer did a better job than Axel Rose himself ever could have done. Go figure, presentation is everything.
 The difference between torture and pleasure is skill, experience, and training.  This rings even truer when it comes to supervisory communication.  As supervisors, we are required to communicate necessary operational changes to our team.  Through management review meetings, or one-on-one discussion with our superiors, we are given the current events, conditions, and objectives that must be delivered.  All too often a supervisor may simply relay the information verbatim, in a matter-of-fact manner.  Worse yet, a supervisor could omit or twist the information creating a distorted incoherent message that only shows team members and subordinates how screwed up everything is above their level.
Making these mistakes simply turns a supervisor into a “Talking Head”, a repeater, a buffoon.   Even if we don’t think that the information is fair, correct, or constructive, we must find ways to transmit the message as it was intended.  The truth is, safety rules, environmental concerns, discipline, and countless other mundane or uncomfortable topics need to be delivered with the same quality as good news (bonuses, promotions, events, etc.).   It is also important to be prepared for questions and complaints about the information that you are bringing to the table, otherwise your message value will be lost.
As you get your marching orders from your superior, make sure you understand what is really at stake.  You need to quickly place yourself in your subordinates’ perspective and anticipate their reactions.  You can’t always paint a rosy picture of reality, but you must show these concepts in a manner that proves that the source is objective.  In some adversarial work environments, especially unionized shops, this is extremely difficult.  The basic lack of trust places you directly in the ultimate squeeze play when you are delivering unpopular new from upper management to your team.  Timing is everything and if you anticipate an argumentative response it is best to set aside some time to have a meeting to discuss the issues.  Your devotion towards properly communicating the edicts from above while simultaneously listening to the grumblings from below will at least allow you to complete your objectives.  Peace in the workplace may not be achieved, but your team will respect your efforts to hear them out.  It is unlikely that you will be able to change what is happening from above to accommodate the desires of your team.  It is of the utmost importance not to feed into the despair, but try to find solutions to dealing with changes, restrictions, or disruptions.
Most people receiving unpopular news simply need to be heard.  Deep down, most of them realize that their wishes will not come over the needs of the company.  By devoting a specific amount of time to properly communicating (speaking and listening) you will accomplish their need to express themselves.  Be careful however, not to let this discussion drag on, or encourage the grumbling to continue past a few days.  Mutiny is what you must prevent even if someone has to walk the proverbial plank.
Communication is a key element of a quality supervisor.  The most promotable managers are those who are most effective communicating with their team.  It doesn’t matter how well you know the process, the equipment, or the science if you can’t transmit that vision to others.  Leadership is by example, and that example is going to come from your voice. When the music is playing, and you can’t hit the high notes, step down an octave, and give it your best shot.  Have fun, and don’t quit your day job.


  1. Excellent article with interesting information, like music and everything connected with it
    Richard Brown

  2. By reading this post, I was transported back in time when I was young and hanging out under a rock. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information!
    virtual data room


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