Undermining A Strategy With Poor People Skills

A great strategy needs to be matched by good people skills.

I remember one project where we spent months working with an organisation to develop the community strategy. A few days before the presentation, the community leader fell ill and his direct report, the community manager, stepped in to do the presentation.

18 of us were in the room. The CEO opened the meeting with a short, enthusiastic, speech about the importance of community and how the organisation needed to be more engaged in all of the organisation’s community channels; forums, social media, YouTube and more…

The community manager quickly chimed in to say:

“Social media isn’t really community, it’s building an audience not connecting members to one another”

For sure, it’s an argument shared by many of us. But contradicting a highly supportive CEO in front of almost the entire executive team before beginning the presentation is an extreme act of self-sabotage.

It went downhill from there. Throughout the presentation, the community manager was stubborn and inflexible. She saw every question as a potential attack instead of an opportunity to better align and incorporate the needs of others. When the exec team began to discuss key points of the presentation between themselves, she jumped in with a ‘definitive’ answer to shut the discussion down instead of facilitating the discussion and ensuring key people were heard.

She didn’t speed up through the less important parts or slow down at the key parts. Her tone of voice wasn’t excited and enthusiastic but projected an air of ‘this is the thing you must do’. She didn’t give the audience a sense of autonomy. The strategy was presented as ‘this is the strategy, take it or leave it’.

In hindsight, this was our fault (mine and the community leader). We should have pushed back the meeting to allow more time for her to practice and prepare.

A great strategy doesn’t succeed if you appear nervous or argumentative when presenting (or executing) it. People have to like and respect you before they can like and respect your strategy. Improvement here begins with awareness. You need to solicit honest feedback from peers to find areas of improvement. It might not sound like the community work you signed up for, but it really is.

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