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1 Aug 2011

Making the Grapevine Work for You as a Leader

Reverberations Throughout Workforce

Business drastically discounts the interpersonal interaction in favor of group ones. Saying the same thing to ten people simultaneously is more efficient than saying it ten different times to each person. However, this efficiency overlooks two important qualitative, interpersonal aspects:

  1. People prefer to interact with their leaders one-on-one.
  2. People enjoy talking about their leaders to others.

In a business setting, presidents, executives and managers, can influence the company’s internal grapevine through dynamic, interpersonal interactions with their employees. The right-hand figure illustrates the reverberation these interactions can create. A leader (blue sphere) interacts with an employee (red sphere) causing him to share his experience (red rings) with the leader with others (green spheres). The challenge is making the reverberation a positive one. Leaders accomplish this by taking advantage of opportunities to employ their personalities.

For example, in a thousand-person, five-floor regional office, a sales representative sold the largest single order for a particular type of product in the fifteen-year history of the office. The Regional President sent the sales representative a congratulatory note.

While a satisfactory response, it demonstrates the dynamic, grapevine opportunity he missed. He could have gone done to the sales representative’s floor and congratulated her personally. Even if she weren’t there, the mere sight of him on the floor would have created positive reverberations. Moreover, while he was there, he would have had the opportunity to interact with other employees creating other reverberations.

Every day, business leaders miss these kinds of opportunities to seize control of the grapevine, to make dynamic gestures. The effort is very similar to a public relations campaign except it’s internal. Instead, business leaders moan and complain about gossip, believing it’s beyond their control, when in actuality they actively make the grapevine work for them.


Related post: Tapping the Power of Personality for Executives and Senior Managers 1.0


4 Responses

  1. This reminds me of the well-liked company president who knows every employee by first name and has frequent short, but positive interactions with all employees. Something for us all to think about. I found this one of your best posts ever.

  2. Julie Cox

    I learned leadership from my former company.Having work for Nordstrom taught me how you can get ‘more honey’ from your employees.
    I’m able to produce more for the company because of the way effort is recognized in every which way they can.
    Some have innate power to be productive and a leader…some needs guidance and personal recognition to boost their ego.
    Great post Mike.

    1. Mike Lehr

      Ironically, Julie, one of my first jobs was in retailing. Nordstrom is held in high regard in that industry. With a very diverse, numerous sales force, we learn very quickly how different people and their motivations are. What is a compliment for one could easily be an insult for another. It sounds as though you learned quite a bit from your experience. Congratulations!

      Thank you for stopping by, visiting and commenting. I appreciate it. ~Mike

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