The best organizations have well thought out and effective communications plans, often times built around the most simple of ideas. Knowing how to effectively communicate messages internally, building consensus amongst key leadership, speaking with one voice, knowing your constituents and addressing their needs, or at least acknowledging their needs, and then making sure that media are communicated to in an effective and consistent manner are all hallmarks of effective internal and external communications, whether you are a large public corporation or a small business or not-for- profit. That basic checklist makes all feel at least listened to and engaged, and makes those “on the inside” feel like they are part of the process. That checklist also helps in challenging times, and usually gives senior leadership a chance to see issues coming or find ways to address upcoming issues more effectively than when operations happen in a vacuum. With those thoughts in mind, it is very troubling to see the problems that the United States Olympic Committee has gone through recently, with many of the problems stemming from a lack of effective internal and external communication. This is not about Chicago 2016's failed Olympic bid either. The 2016 group actually had a good communications plan to get their messaging out to the people and the media, and few ever questioned who the leadership was or what they were trying to accomplish. Bid head Pat Ryan was available and presented the best possible picture the group had for the Olympics. Why Chicago wasn’t selected is another issue that has less to do with how the message was communicated than what the message was. However the USOC problems, which have now led to the potential dismissal of senior leaders Larry Probst (who received a vote of confidence from the USOC board Friday) and Stephanie Streeter, seem to be more about communication in the decision making process than anything else. The Chicago Tribune's Phil Hersh detailed the issues the USOC has dealt with in a piece this week. In the past, the USOC had effective communicators like Daryl Seibel and Mike Moran making sure that messages were conveyed and taking the temperature of those both internally and externally to make sure that leadership could help address and make informed decisions. However recently, many media have wriitten about the inaccessability of top leadership throughout a critical period, and the lack of communication to the USOC constituents, the National Governing Bodies which run the individual sports. This lack of effective internal and external communication has brought the USOC to where it is today…with an external perception of crisis and an internal perception of chaos and call for change. Now could all of this been avoided if there was more basic contact internally, and with a regular flow of media contact externall. Unsure, but one thing is for sure. When building consensus in times of crisis, the easiest way to do it is to make sure there is always a free flow of information up and down the chain of command all the time. Without that free flow, leadership can be viewed as being out of touch with the day to day, which leads to loss of confidence and can slow down the decision process. Also without free flow, senior leadership can often miss key messages or problems amongst the rank and file, and those little problems are often the ones which can end up causing major distractions and become large scale issues for leadership, especially in challenging times. So what will happen with the USOC going forwar. An organization which such a wealth of experience and positives amongst its rank and file now has the opportunity to re-trench, re-position and re-define itself with new leadership at a time when people want to see its heros Olympic-sized again. With the right leadership, people who are effective internal and external communicators as well as smart businesspeople, the USOC could end up being in a better position for the new world of sports and entertainment than it has ever been before so long as leadership learns the lessons of its recent missteps and communicates them effectively.
Some other good reads…Time has a good piece on what Crocs can do to redfine its brand…the New York Times had a wonderful story on Cleveland coach/educator Ted Ginn…and Yahoo's Michael Silver has a good profile on the Denver Broncos Brian Dawkins, who has resurrected his career to lead one of the NFL's biggest surprises thus far.