Transparent Communication vs. The Grapevine

Communication was the central topic in the latest Quicktake podcast featuring MDM's Tom Gale and IRCG's Mike Marks, as the two dug into what transparency really means.
People figures with comment clouds above their heads. Social communication. Information exchange. Rumors and gossip. Talk and chat. Discussion and dialogue. Public opinion poll. Dispute settling

We’ve heard that communication is one of the keys to success for any business. And I’m sure all distributors and their top executives love to promote how great of a communicator they are, as well as their “open-door” policy for being able to talk with their employees.

But how many are following through? How many are walking the walk?

MDM’s latest Quicktake podcast, recorded June 24, led off with the topic of communication, stemming from the third and final session of MDM’s Sales Transformation Bootcamp webcast that aired June 23 and is now available on-demand (you can purchase here). In that webcast, Crescent Electric Supply President & CEO Scott Teerlinck detailed his company’s mantra of “Communicate Everything,” which covers being fearless in communicating wins and losses, acknowledging what you’re hearing from employees and showing employees that action is being taken based on their feedback.

In the podcast, Indian River Consulting Group Founding Partner Mike Marks mentioned how Teerlinck’s passion for transparency is a big reason for Crescent’s recent growth and success, especially within its culture.

Marks emphasized that there’s a difference between a company’s official communication — which is company memos or press releases — and the daily and face-to-face/digital communication between executives, managers and frontline employees.

And beyond that is another communication channel that Marks called the “grapevine,” also known as the backchannel. This word-of-mouth channel is where employees discuss bad managers, theories about the company’s direction and other goings-on within the organization.

“Scott put out almost a whole list of best practices for doing communication well,” Marks noted. “And it’s not like he invented them, but this is a solid foundation. If you’re good at that, there’s not much of a grapevine, because people are talking about where the company’s going.”

On the flip side, Marks continued, a lack of transparency creates a communications vacuum that employees will fill with half-truths and fabrications.

“Frankly, that’s where a lot of conspiracy theories come from (but the stories are really good),” Marks quipped. “People make decisions based on the information that they get. So, if they start thinking about layoffs or all the turmoil in the world today, you may end up having good people that lose confidence and leave, and the employees who stay are the ones you didn’t care if they stayed.”

Because of this, Marks said, when IRCG is consulting with a distributor, it always takes a hard look at the difference between a company’s “official” communication and how much is off the record and on the grapevine.

“It’s a huge deal,” he noted. “And every company has got a little bit of that.”

Marks and Gale went much further into the topic in the Quicktake podcast, which you can listen to in full via the audio embed above or at our podcasts page here.

SHIFT | The Future of Distribution

Marks will be one of the featured speakers at MDM’s upcoming SHIFT | The Future of Distribution industry summit, to be held Sept. 25-27 in Broomfield, Colorado. This unique event will help distributors navigate business model transformation across sales structure, digital and data analytics. Learn more about SHIFT here.

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