Friday, September 16, 2011

Technology doesn't change the truth: Honesty isn't easy

As you may have heard, Research In Motion (RIM) posted disappointing results this week. It seems consumers and enterprises are abandoning BlackBerry in favor of the coveted iPhone and Android smartphones.

Raise your hand if you're surprised. Didn't think so.

I, for one, couldn't wait to dump my old Storm for an Android. For me, the BB operating system (OS) is just too clunky, and the Android OS is way more fun. RIM continues to herald the security of their system for enterprises which, as this week's results prove, isn't really convincing anyone to stick around.

With that said, I don't want to debate the merits of one smartphone over another here. What I'm interested in is how clueless RIM's leadership seem to be about how lame most consumers think their product is.

This only reinforces my belief that the biggest challenges facing internal communication professionals is getting our clients (typically leadership) to be honest, first with themselves, then with their employees. Yet this is no easy feat. Honesty takes a lot of self-awareness, humility, vulnerability and, ultimately, a genuine desire to do what's best for the company.

How's this for clueless - Edward Snyder, an analyst for Charter Equity Research, said the following about RIM's leadership:
"so far their track record for being able to predict their own performance has been abysmal."
"I don't think anybody believes their guidance. Managements' credibility is at an all time low." 
Finally, the worst:
"We're well past the point these guys should be replaced."
Ouch. It sure sounds like RIM's leadership are not being honest with themselves, I can't imagine they're being honest with their employees. (In fairness, I have NO idea what RIM's leadership are saying to their employees. I'm the first to admit I'm making assumptions here.)

Here's the way I see it - today's employees, and the new generation of employees entering the workforce in particular (read: Gen Y and younger), demand an extraordinary level of transparency and humility from their leaders. Unfortunately, many of today's business leaders are not prepared to be as vulnerable as that level of honesty requires.

Simply having your CEO blog will never be enough. What does he or she post there? Is it genuine? Does he or she admit mistakes? Are accurate critiques acknowledged?

Rather than viewing critical comments as "negative", I suggest that there is valuable data in there to be leveraged. For every criticism, employees should be encouraged to suggest alternative courses of action. If even one suggestion is useful, then the honesty will prove invaluable.

Anything less than consistent, ongoing, HONEST participation will set off employees' bullshit alarms, which can do more damage than good.

I wonder what's being said around the watercoolers in RIM's offices today.

Is this something you've struggled against with your clients? How did or are you working to remedy it?

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