Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My intentional conversation with an unintended audience

In an office environment communication commonly follows a sequential pattern of interaction. The boss says something, the employees listen—occasionally take notes—and take action.

Only it doesn’t work that way.

When I first became a supervisor I realized the best tactic for our group to stay on track during a meeting was to have an agenda. I carefully crafted the notes, boiled them down to an easy to follow agenda, typed the neat schedule and passed it out to each attendee. I thought if the staff knew how faraway we were from the end, it would limit the odd duck question and verbal meandering, and give them a visual clue of how close we were to concluding, thus assuring them the meeting would eventually end.

Only it didn’t last.

I got comfortable with my role, maybe too comfortable, still typed my notes, but stopped preparing an agenda. Here’s what I discovered--I had inactive listeners, I had overactive participants, I had meetings that went on too long, and no one was taking notes. In addition, I found I had to repeat the same things approximately every three to four months. ‘Yes, you can. No, you can’t.’

I decided to create a record of our meeting notes and filed them in a folder on a shared drive. This was an unending WORD document that I added to each week. This was boring. No one references boring, (except me to prove the point, “Yes, I did tell you that. I announced that on February 19, 2009”). I thought making the meeting notes more interesting would solve the not-paying-attention issue. I created a blog: If it's in writing, we'll remember. Because proprietary information was shared on the blog, I locked the public out and announced to the staff they needed to sign up for a free gmail account to access the site.

Oh, my lord, that was a HUGE issue.

Granted, a couple (two, to be exact) jumped on board and said, “This is great!” The others didn’t want to do it. Somehow, having too many passwords floating around in the internet-sphere would cause funds to leach out of their savings. Seriously, a staff member confessed that to me. A handful more got together and made a pact that they wouldn’t sign up. Only one followed through with the pact. Gawh. I had no idea a blog could create that much dissension. A blog, folks, a blog.  Look at it. Does it look divisive?

I decided I would keep doing what I was doing and eventually the staff would figure it out. I decided I would make the online experience fun and add a Twitter account and tweet their successes. Thus, the birth of @TheClassicCarol.

Only I was the only one on Twitter.

@TheClassicCarol started gathering followers. Sheesh, now what do I do? I decided I ought to tweet something that might be interesting to someone other than my intended audience. Then my new un-intended audience wondered why the blog posted on Twitter went nowhere.

After a half year of excluding you I decided to create 360 Convos, my outlet to have an intentional conversation with the unintended.  Welcome, blog visitor!

Now, what have you tried at work that had unexpected outcome?

Oh, and by the way, I’m preparing an agenda for that afternoon sales rep meeting.