The Danger of Disconnect

By Hinda Mitchell
August 27, 2020

Have you looked around lately? We are living through (and not so well) what has been termed an “omni-crisis.” What started as a not-so-simple pandemic then morphed into a social justice and racial equity movement.

But wait! We weren’t done yet. The pandemic we thought would be waning by fall – not even close to over. And we’ve escalated to a massive economic crisis – businesses of all sizes and types struggling to survive – while millions of Americans are unemployed, the wedge of political divisiveness deepens, and a national dismantling of the education system as we knew it is negatively impacting families, students and our future.

And amid all that, so many businesses, non-profit groups, government organizations and entire sectors of our economy are trying to navigate their way through. All that with less resources than ever before and communications that prioritize virtual over face to face and shift from meaningful engagement to minimalist function. We are surviving, but we are far from thriving.

There is a cautionary tale within, and it is this: Companies and organizations are at an even greater risk than the omni-crisis. They face a crisis of values like never before. What once felt like a sturdy set of principles, a strong mission or a robust culture is threatened, if it even works at all today. Organizations that are irrelevant risk being undermined – or left behind. If they don’t truly know who you are – and if you don’t live up to what you say – they are likely to move on.

Connecting with employees, customers, community and other stakeholders with shared values has never been more important – or more difficult. Finding the right words is just the start. Hold up a mirror to your organization and ask yourself – are we today what we need to be? Does what we say match what we do? Are our actions reflective of our values? And does anyone even care anymore?

We see missteps – and we see opportunities- all around us. The missteps happen when there is a disconnect – when your story, your values and what you put out into the world is at best, no longer relevant, and at worst, counter to the greater societal position today. This inconsistency can be devastating to your brand – and can create a loss of trust and confidence among those you most want to engage.

The opportunity is in the reconnect – and your business or organization’s ability to redefine your story on your terms, in this new time, and then assure it gets told to those who most need to hear it. It all starts with mattering – what matters to your stakeholders? What matters to society as a whole? How does what your business stands for matter to your people? What positions will matter to your success? Quick, decisive action is needed.

Finding alignment by first listening to the world immediately around you and then to the larger world, then shaping your story to fit that new paradigm will bring you closer to connecting. Once you’ve gotten there, then the next opportunity is to find the most effective ways to talk – and to listen – to your stakeholders.

Creating meaningful conversation, developing feedback circles that really work, and being flexible enough to adjust and continue onward only happens when you have a robust stakeholder engagement plan and then you actually work the plan.

Keep stakeholders looking at you for the best definition of your genuine self and what you stand for. Transparency is essential, and authenticity is key. Don’t cede the position to anyone else.

Now is not the time for silence. Indeed, silence itself is a communication and a position. If it matters – you’ve got to say it. If it’s who you are – or who others expect you to be - you’ve got to do it.