Fake news – keeping it real in the workplace
Fake news is grabbing the headlines as traditional and new media giants, including the likes of Google and Facebook, grapple with the fallout. But in an era when we increasingly doubt what we hear and see – how do you come across as trustworthy, particularly in fast-paced work environments, where people may have to take you and what you say at face value? We asked some of Bec Development’s trainers and coaches for their tips…
1. It’s not just what you say but how you say it
Roddy McDougall is a former Head of Home News at ITN and now works as a communications adviser, showing businesses how to come across well when they’re under the spotlight – on TV, in front of a Select Committee, or in the board room.
According to Roddy, the key is to be authentic. “We all form part of a speaker’s audience at times, whether that’s watching them present, listening to them on the radio or watching them on TV.
“We come to pretty quick judgements about people: Do I like this person? Do I believe what they’re saying? Do I trust them? It’s not just what we say as presenters that counts, it’s how we say it too.
“Senior executives in the world of business sometimes feel they can’t be themselves. Maybe that’s down to the culture of the company or some, often misplaced, idea that they have to be ‘more corporate’ in front of an audience.
“The problem with that is that it can get in the way of what they want to say. If they’re not being ‘themselves’ then that will have an impact on how they talk and, most importantly, how we in the audience receive it.
“Difficult messages, in particular, are hard enough when the speaker’s being genuine. Someone delivering tough news and pretending to be genuine will find their audience that much harder to convince. Presenters need to be themselves – and have the licence and authority to be themselves.”
2. Don’t promise something you can’t deliver
Sue Feehan, a specialist in training people in business writing skills, uses an estate agent analogy to get her point across. “Promising a higher price or a quicker sale only works if it’s the truth. Just promising what you can’t deliver in order to get the work – doesn’t work. People we let down with such promises are more likely to tell others about our failings as they feel let down and angry.
“When we promise something we can’t be sure to deliver, we’re flagging ourselves up as a fraud. We may feel that we’ll get away with it on a smile and a firm handshake. But the person we’re deluding is ourselves.
“Rather than making unrealistic promises, think about making a reasoned case that involves more than one option and a more fluid approach. Each of us has to earn the trust of people we deal with, and in a world of uncertainty and fake promises, our trust antennae will be vigilant for something that smells of deception or delusion.”
3. Give yourself and the people you work with permission to take risks
Perhaps a less obvious aspect of authenticity is around risk taking; which also empowers us to be innovative and creative.
If we are to be really innovative in what we do, then we need to be able to take risks, counsels Nick Cromwell, executive coach and people development consultant. “By taking risks, we experiment and if we experiment we can be creative.
“In my experience of working in organisations, there is sometimes a disconnect between what an organisation says it would like in relation to risk and what it actually does.
“If organisations really believe that allowing their people to take risks leads to more creative solutions, then their employees have to trust that they will be supported when taking risks, especially if something were to go wrong. Of course, this also means being clear about what constitutes acceptable risk.”
4. Beware of being the “perfect fit”
While it’s important to fit in beware of doing this without thinking it through, counsels executive and team coach Lynne Cooper.
“Are you driven by the belief you should conform, act like others, talk, behave or even dress in a certain way? It’s quite common. And of course it’s important to fit in with some of the norms of your workplace. You’ll struggle to work collectively if, for example, you arrive at the office when everyone else is leaving for the evening!
“But are you striving for the ‘perfect fit’ without being aware you are doing it? Parents and schools place emphasis on what is and isn’t ‘acceptable’ and children’s conformity often gets rewarded. Young teens constantly seek to ‘fit in’ whilst still developing their own identity.
“Is it any wonder then that adults sometimes maintain these patterns unconsciously, and bring something of a fake self to work?
“If you are not being the unique, authentic individual you are, you’re unlikely to be working at your best, no matter how hard you work. So be honest, be true and be amazing.”
5. Create credible leaders who treat people fairly and with respect
Emma Johnson, a senior L&D professional and experienced trainer specialising in management development and communication, cites research from Great Place to Work, which has spent over 30 years studying the relationship between high trust cultures and success.
“The research identifies several compelling business outcomes that companies with trust-based cultures typically enjoy. These include:
- Increased levels of innovation, customer satisfaction, employee engagement and organisational agility.
- Stock market returns two to three times greater than the market average.
- Turnover rates that are around 50 percent lower than industry competitors. “
Observes Emma: “To create a high-trust culture you need a workplace where trust-based relationships are highly valued and where the employees believe leaders are credible i.e.competent, communicative, honest; where they are treated with respect as people and professionals and where they believe workplace is fundamentally fair.”