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Beyond the Babble: Leadership Communication That Drives Results

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2008

    Worthwhile Advice for Anyone with Employees, Corporate or Small Business

    First off, some full disclosure: I¿m a neighbor to one of the authors our kids have played together, and we¿ve socialized as couples and families. I do not, however, have any financial or professional connection to her¿I teach in the first-year writing programs at two Chicago universities, though I occasionally teach business and professional writing courses¿and am more inclined to read books that address the interests of workers rather than management. That said: Beyond the Babble really is quite a well-crafted book, and presents a compelling argument that corporate leaders should reconsider their approach to management- employee communications. Matha and Boehm call for a focus on action that they reinforce at the levels of structure and language. In the second chapter, they describe ¿the Action Equation¿ by arguing that ¿a leader [starts by] determining exactly what he or she wants the organization to accomplish and . . . what employees need to do to make it happen¿ '27'. 'In this sense, they begin by calling their readers¿ attention to the fundamental concerns of writing and rhetoric: the need to focus on ¿audience¿ and ¿aim¿ or purpose.' At the same time, they reinforce this emphasize on ¿doing¿ by assigning titles to their chapters based on the action those chapters discuss¿¿Do,¿ ¿Know,¿ ¿Feel,¿ ¿Align,¿ ¿Equip¿ and the like. They also organize their lists of tips and strategies according to the action on which each bulleted item is based¿e.g., ¿clarify direction¿ and ¿prepare leadership to deliver¿ and ¿communicate to the larger organization about . . . .¿ 'This is a fundamental principle for writing resumes, too, and it works equally well here.' They have also taken care to keep the book reader- friendly. Their section headers make for efficient reading and effective retention of content their use of what I¿ll call ¿aphorism boxes¿ 'short quotes that are highlighted in bold and presented in a sidebar' enables them to emphasize a crucial point on a particular page and their occasional 'but successful' use of charts and tables provide supporting data and interesting visuals. 'The graphic for the ¿Behavior Chain¿ on p. 94 works remarkably well, in part because it allows for an easy comparison between the kinds of behaviors managers would want and the kind that they¿re likely to get.' All that said, I will admit that the authors could do more to advance their argument. As a reader and an educator, I would like to see them address the now-ubiquitous question of ¿how New Media can or should play a role in effective corporate communication.¿ Yes, that question is sometimes asked simply as a matter of course but, given the role of technology-mediated communication in everyday 'much less corporate' life, I can¿t help but wonder how e-mails and texts and video-enhanced real- time communications and the like can serve the interests of Matha and Boehm¿s work. I also wonder if they could broaden their audience a bit, perhaps to include the communication needs of smaller businesses. While such businesses might not fit the client-model for Basic 3¿s consulting practice, they would certainly fit the audience- model of potential readers for this book. Those concerns, however, can easily be addressed in later editions or follow-up books¿and it¿s clear that Matha and Boehm have more than one book in them 'and much more to offer the business community, corporate and otherwise'. The next time I teach the senior-level ¿writing in the professions¿ course, I¿ll seriously consider using this text with my students¿and will also, of course, recommend it to my colleagues in business and communications programs.

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