Warning:  Our hackles have been raised.

Those hairs on our neck shifted upwards when we read of not-so-secret one-on-one meetings between money managers, hedge funds, and the like and public company CEOs.

Not that there’s anything wrong or illegal with the practice.  [After all, the SEC calls it “corporate access” and, though there’s some monitoring, it doesn’t breach the Regulation Fair Disclosure rule of 2000.]

Yet survey after survey of these fairly regular occasions – about 99 on average each year for public businesses, says Ipreo – demonstrates that this kind of face time allows analysts and investors to make better trading decisions and more accurate earnings forecasts.

So be it.  It’s obvious these kinds of conversations help persuade the monied occupations that a company’s stock is a worthwhile investment. 

At the same time, it allows other, external observers to gauge the tone and confidence level and body language of the CEO (or CFO).

So what we object to is not the need to present to the investment community, face to face.  No, what causes our discomfort is the not-so-equal access of the C-suite to his/her employees, the rank and file who need to understand the strategies, the changes, and, yes, the financials. 

Okay, we get it:  Executive time is precious.  But don’t employees relish and deserve regular face-to-face communications in small groups with key senior leaders?


Much of today’s pop non-fiction is obsessed with conversations.  That is, the lack of them.   The face-to-face type.

Blame quickly shifts to the Millennials who grew up with technology in hand.  And then extends to everyone and anyone who works for a living, over-relying on social media and smartphones, on apps and e-widgets.

Yet it ain’t all the fault of IT.  Nor can we point fingers to specific cohorts, because, truth! everyone indulges.  It’s just easier to communicate with things other than our mouths, our voices, our hearts.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, a Yale professor of computer science, half tongue in cheek and half not, proposes a Talknet for seniors.  That is, a 365/24/7 system that allows elderfolks the ability to tune into any dialogue going on around the world.  His plan is simple:  Five choices on screen, each with no more than ten participants.  Start your own conversation.  Or wait for others to leave.  Or, quite simply, listen in with computer speakers.

It’s an imaginary concept that could work, quite well, in corporate settings.  And not just for seniors.  It would train employees in the art and craft of talking.  It might be a good substitute for some learning and development courses (with apologies to those professionals).  And it could replace the communities of practice, the Yammers of the world, and corporate jam sessions (among others), helping workers realize that there’s much to be gained in connecting and relating live.

The fault, dear Brutus …

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Anyone in the communications business, advertising or marketing, knows that the human touch is profoundly instrumental in getting the results you deserve.

Part of that personal interaction includes face to face conversations, whether one on one, one in a group, and the like.  [Many of us call it F2F.]

And embedded within those dialogues is a skill that, of late, the media has examined inside and out:  Listening.

Yeah, your mother told you:  ‘Listen when I talk.’  ‘God gave you two ears and one mouth.’


Recent academic research has probed the nature of mindful hearing.   Eighty-five percent of what we know we learn through listening.  Yet we only listen at a 25 percent comprehension rate.  Compare those numbers with the demands of a typical business day:   45% listening, 30% talking, 16% reading, and 9% writing.

Despite all those stats, we’re not great at attending.  We interrupt.  We’d rather talk about ourselves.  We’re uncomfortable with emotions, so we avoid them.   We try to fix.  We’re distracted by you-know-whats.

As with all intangibles, listening well takes time to, well, learn.  It’s a matter of using the right tone, interpreting body language, and learning to actively hone in on another being.  Which is why corporate processes and programs like performance management , learning and development, even business strategy could stand a long and lengthy dose of ‘how to listen.’ 

No wonder Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust agrees:   “When you’re listening, you’re getting information.  You’re being given the gift of understanding where someone is … “

CASCADE: More than a dish detergent

Ten-plus million strong in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s a number relatively unaffected by the economy, but one that’s been impacted emotionally.

America’s middle managers, many argue, are the essential layer between leaders and front liners.  They create and innovate, develop talent, make decisions, ensure that tasks are complete, and, in general, do more today than ever before.

Others eschew the very name, claiming their organizations must avoid the morass of bureaucracy and embrace boss-less freedom.  Executives of that persuasion (usually leading tech start-ups) insist that the middle represents dead weight, micro-management, and other negatives.

We over-stand.  But, then, how do businesses accomplish the “what” they need to do?  And more important (to us, at least), how do they get the word to the troops about the “what” – and make sure that staff continually follows the corporate North Star?

The first answer that crops up:  Cascading, or the process of sending messages from the top to the bottom, from executives to, say, customer service executives.  Sure, it’s a tried solution.  But it doesn’t work in most cases.  Managers forget.  It’s not in their performance goals, so there’s no urgency.  The communications get re-interpreted.  Employees don’t understand – and the wherewithal to explain and elaborate isn’t readily available.  Ad nauseum.

In our opinion, it’s a lazy person’s solution.  It’s all too easy to scribble notes on a PowerPoint document and then distribute it to supervisors to reinforce the strategy, the initiatives, the goals.  Yeah, solutions aren’t plentiful; see if you agree with our takes on …

  • Town Halls:  Must be reinforced.  
  • Videos, audios, animation, print:  Good for a one-shot intro only (if you get that chance to make a first impression)

Which leaves us with face to face.  Yet it too needs to be repeated – and demands time and attention.  One substitute might be collaborative communities, enabling them to spread the words.  Another:  Trying to get viral with internal social media, if it’s up and running well. 

There’s no conclusion … yet.  What’s worked for you in reaching the Sandwich Population?