MOST PEOPLE ADMIRE THE BUSINESS ACCOMPLISHMENTS of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Dick Parsons, Russell Simmons and Oprah Winfrey. Each of these individuals achieved their success with vision, perseverance, talent, and a strong will coupled with a little bit of luck. But while those character traits may have gotten them on the playing field, their business success came largely through their effectiveness in managing and leading people in the game.
The ability to affect others positively in the workplace is a carefully crafted skill acquired over time. As a leader, the messages you send--overt or subtle--can either inspire or demoralize your staff. Stephen Young, author of Micromessaging: Why Greater Leadership Is Beyond Words (McGraw-Hill, 2006), wants to make managers aware of how they can maximize inspiration and minimize the missteps that depress staff morale.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
"Micromessaging" is the new corporate buzzword describing how managers and workers send subtle, often nonverbal messages through phrases and tone, attitude and gesture. A classic negative example of micromessaging is the blunder Senator Joseph Biden committed when he described his colleague Senator Barack Obama as "articulate and clean." Articulate and clean are not descriptive words typically used to describe white candidates or elected officials, so covertly they seem to refer to Senator Obama's race.
"While most of us are unaware of the 2,000 to 4,000 micromessages we send each day, these micormessages determine short- and long-term performance, employee loyalty and organizational culture. The intrigue is how senders are mostly unaware of receiving them, how mysteriously they are sent, and most importantly acted on, blindly altering workplace performance and collegial relationships," Young says.
Actions speak louder than words. Sitting in a meeting where everyone is watching how the manager reacts to various questions, comments and presentations, you subtly learn who is favored, who is tolerated or who not to bother with. For example, a manager introduces two of his staffers to a colleague. The first worker introduced, the manager just says his name and what he does in a clipped tone, while the other worker is introduced with a more praiseful tone and the manager actually looks at him while the introduction is being made. Right way you know who is favored and who is not.
Young says he first encountered micromessaging while working for a manager who...