Posted by: Kristen Ridley | September 14, 2010

Evolution – Diva Queen to Zen Goddess

GoddessAs any communicator will tell you, the “APPROVAL PROCESS” [cue the: dramatic background music!] is one of our biggest challenges. We struggle with it, we complain about it, and we keep hoping something, somehow will make it better. Yeah, good luck with that!

Truth is, the process probably isn’t going to change all that much. Because most of the time the stuff we’re trying to get approved may have been written by us, but the actual words/messages are often going to go out under someone else’s name. So it isn’t all THAT surprising that those other people feel they should have a say in how the documents are written.

But it does create some frustrations for us communicators, since part of our jobs – if we’re lucky! – involve advising and counselling our business partners on how to communicate effectively and in ways that will create not only understanding of the messages, but, when appropriate, generate the actions desired from the audience after reading those messages. So when our clients don’t want to heed our sage, carefully crafted advice it can create some frustration for us.

If you ask most of my friends – especially my communicator friends – about how I typically react when I encounter these kinds of obstacles to getting things approved, they would probably tell you that my first reaction tends more to the Drama Queen Diva than the Zen Goddess. But I am trying to evolve and so I focus on re-framing my mind-set when I hit an approval wall to climb.

To remind myself that there is another way to react to challenges, here are a few examples of opportunities to re-focus the Diva and turn her into the Goddess:

Situation: The draft you agonized over and made certain it delivered on all the requested components before delivering to the client comes back with lots of confusing and vague “feedback” with a request for a re-write
Diva’s reaction: OMG! Do these people not understand how much work went into this draft?! It’s EXACTLY what they asked for, and anyway, what ARE they talking about with that feedback??!!
Goddess’s reaction: Well, they probably didn’t even realize that what they asked for wasn’t what they needed until they saw the first draft. So, it’s good that we are making progress in identifying what the message really needs to say before it goes out and I should give myself credit for helping to clarify the approach for them.

Situation: You’ve done at least 12 re-writes on the same document and it doesn’t seem like you are any closer to getting the final approval. The deadline is looming and you can’t get clarity from the client about where the disconnect lies.
Diva’s reaction: What is the problem here?! How can they not know what they need to say?! We will NEVER get this message out if they don’t make up their minds about what it needs to SAY!!!!
Goddess’s reaction: Okay, I’m the communication expert here, so it’s my responsibility to figure out how to take the client’s feedback and turn it into a message they feel they can approve. So, I need to determine what is the best way to get the client and I to agreement. Maybe a face-to-face meeting is a better approach than phone calls or emails so we can agree on the key points that need to be included and what tone they think is best.

Situation: the original sole approver of the message now wants to include a bunch additional people into the process, which is throwing a wrench into the process and creating confusion and conflicting opinions about what the message needs to say.
Diva’s reaction: Are you KIDDING ME?! Can you people say: “Too many cooks spoiled the broth?!” Do we REALLY need 14 people to approve this document?? Come ON!
Goddess’s reaction: Hmmm. Well, let’s break this down. Maybe the process will go more smoothly if I first confirm with the main contact what aspect of the message each of these additional business partners are providing input about. That way I can focus each person’s input towards just that aspect of the message and keep the approval process moving. I should probably also check back in with my main contact after each secondary person provides input on their area, to confirm that the new feedback aligns with the overall strategy for this message.

Situation: the client provided you with initial instructions, you drafted the message and sent it within the requested timeline, but then you heard nothing and the final deadline to finish this message is looming. If the client doesn’t either confirm or provide feedback soon, you’re going to miss the delivery date.
Diva’s reaction: I cannot believe they haven’t responded to the request for approval by now! We’re coming up on the deadline and if I don’t get approval soon, we’re going to pass it! Worse! If they wait till the last-minute and then give me CHANGES, I won’t have time to revise the document, get another approval and submit this for publication in time. COME ON – surely you can look at this. After all YOU requested it!
Goddess’s reaction: Well, it is important that we finalize this, but ultimately, the client is the decision-maker. I’ve reminded them that the deadline is coming up quickly, that we haven’t yet finalized the document, and that I’m waiting on their instructions to proceed. Perhaps if I offer to schedule a phone call or a meeting to get their feedback it would be easier than waiting for them to squeeze in the time to look at this.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Communicators often lament that they don’t receive the respect they deserve and that their contributions aren’t understood or appreciated. But, here’s the thing – respect has to go both ways. I’m sure my clients are facing just as many deadlines, obstacles and frustrations with THEIR work as I am with mine. So it’s quite likely that they aren’t making my life difficult on purpose, but that they are struggling with the same massive to-do list, and just haven’t been able to to get to me as quickly as I’d like them to.

And, after all, communications is a service based job. We work for and with other people, and like it or not, people are complicated. I figure the best way for everyone to get what they need from the communications equation is for me to channel my inner Zen Goddess to respect and support my clients by making it as easy as possible for them to give me what I need to deliver a great product for them.

But now, just for fun, anybody have some additional situations they’d like to add to the list? Don’t forget to include the reactions of the Diva and the Goddess! Can’t wait to see your contributions!

P.S. Please don’t be concerned if the next time you walk past my office, you hear chanting and smell incense – that’ll just be me communing with my goddess and creating my zen!

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Responses

  1. Hi K – I can only begin to try and channel your Zen Goddess attitude and mindset. You are much stronger than me. 🙂

    I don’t have an example right now, but I do have a question: Why don’t our clients treat us with respect?

  2. Follow-up: I mean, it might be easier to channel the Zen Goddess mindset if there was mutual respect.

  3. Susan: I think part of the challenge is that there is a perception of: “Well, anyone can communicate, right?” So sometimes our clients don’t realize that there’s a very important word missing from that sentence and that word is “effectively”.

    Yes, anyone who has a pen or a keyboard can put out messaging, but if you want to be certain that the communication you deliver is structured to talk to the right people, using the right method and at the right time, in order to create the result you want, well that’s a horse of an entirely different colour.

    The biggest issue I’ve found in trying to change this mistaken perception, is that the “do-it-myself” contingent don’t realize their approach didn’t do what it needed to until AFTER the communication has been delivered and the results weren’t what was hoped for.

    I also think that in many cases it isn’t that our clients don’t respect us, but simply that they are so buried under their own responsibilities and deliverables on a daily basis, that they don’t have time to engage with us in the most ideal fashion. And that’s just an unfortunate reality of today’s 500-mile-an-hour business environment overall.

    Really, is it any different for other departments in our company who need to work cooperatively on cross-functional tasks? If HR sends you a message about benefits re-enrollment, or if IT tells you they need you to download something or read something on the Intranet, does that get your immediate attention?

    I figure the best we can all do is try to remember that everyone is busy, and everyone is trying to juggle multiple deadlines and demands, and try to be patient with one another, in the hopes that others will remember our patience, and return it in the future.

  4. Love this post.

  5. Donna: thanks so much. Coming from you, that’s a real compliment!

  6. Really good one. I’m clearly in the diva camp, unfortunately. Maybe there’s a seminar? A pill?

  7. Amy, I recommend wine, chocolate and spa days . . . of course, I recommend wine, chocolate and spa days pretty much regardless of the situation, so do with that advice what you will!


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