Also in this compendium: What you can learn from Michelle Obama's and Ivanka Trump's convention speeches, and the four conversations managers must master.
A Google search for best executive blogs will lead you down a long road littered with 404 errors because the efforts have been terminated, communications consultant Erika Parker notes. It was once the rage for senior executives to blog. Now we know more about the pitfalls. She lists seven reasons to be wary if considering joining the fray:
• You aren't feeling the fire: A blog must reflect the author, something burning inside you wish to share – not just an obligation. Do you have a unique perspective to offer? And if like some executives you plan to use a ghostwriter, that individual can "lay the kindling and work hard to build the fire, but if your daily actions don't give off the same heat, your credibility could be at stake," she stresses on her StandupCommunications blog. Instead, you may want to look around the organization for people with passions they can offer as guest bloggers, their spark reflecting back on you.
• You are too disciplined and repetitive: A danger is that each blog post you offer will be just more of the same. Sure, messages must be repeated to be reinforced, but only for so long. You must be able to deepen understanding, not just repeat nostrums, and offer context and examples your audience hasn't heard.
• You haven't mapped out your course: Think through before you start how you can make the blog long-lasting, including planned announcements that will arise throughout the year. "In between, plan to share reflections on how aspects like strong leadership or culture are carrying you to the next point. Just remember to leave room for the unexpected – timely insights on sudden events can be your biggest opportunity to shine," she writes.
• You aren't ready to engage: Your blog posts might prompt questions and debate. Do you have the time and resources to fully commit to those discussions, rather than seeming to be disconnected? "You don't need to respond to every comment, and you can certainly lean on your team for support. But managing reactions thoughtfully will help your trust and influence to swell," she says.
• You'll struggle with your image: Blogs are informal, cutting through pretense. If that's not your bag – "you wear your suit to company picnics or your pearls at the gym," as she puts it – put your energy into something more suitable.
• You'll be inviting unnecessary risk: While it's handy to have a convenient communications tool in times of crisis or public scrutiny, what you say can be misconstrued or thrown back at you. Also, going dark in such periods will lead people to feel you have something to hide. Be aware of those risks.
• There is just no need: Just because blogging platforms are available doesn't mean you must use them. She warns: "If your business and culture are thriving, and you're already getting more feedback than you know what to do with, don't add another thing to your plate just because it feels like a 'nice to have.' "
Consider these seven issues as you consider whether to blog.
2. Learning from Michelle Obama and Ivanka Trump
Michelle Obama and Ivanka Trump offered powerful speeches at the recent Democratic and Republican conventions that show two styles you can use in your own communications. Ms. Obama was cinematic, Ms. Trump percussive, speech consultant Anett Grant points out in FastCompany.com.
"Trump's approach could be summed up as intense, but it wasn't over the top. She sounded focused. You could call it a 'drumbeat' style. The First Lady was no less impactful, but she made a more emotional appeal – her style was more 'cinematic,'" Mr. Grant writes.
Ms. Trump repeatedly offered sharp, punchy headlines under the theme: My father is a fighter. Early on, she declared, "I have seen him fight for his family. I have seen him fight for his employees. I have seen him fight for his company. And now, I am seeing him fight for our country."
She used some form of the word "fight" a dozen times in the speech, building intensity. The upside to this style is that it lets you construct a compelling message, in this case fight, fight, fight. The downside is that you may display too much energy, forgetting about varying facial expressions or using gestures because it's all about the words and beat.
Ms. Obama was more emotionally driven. Early on, she talked about watching her daughters go off to school in "those black SUVs with all those big men with guns," her daughters' "little faces pressed up against the window." Even more powerful was: "I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn."
You can see and feel those moments. The upside of the cinematic style, Ms. Grant says, is that you'll leave your listeners with strong memories. The downside is that you might not deliver a focused message. It's harder to sum up her theme than Ms. Trump's.
"By understanding these two approaches, you can decide what's right for you: Do you want to play percussion, or do you want to make movies?" she concludes.
3. The four conversations managers must master
At the heart of management are four conversations you must excel at. Consultant Scott Blanchard pulls them together from the four basic questions direct reports want answered:
• What am I supposed to be doing?
• Did I do it right?
• Am I doing something wrong?
• Did it matter and what did we learn?
Those questions probably resonate with you; they are certainly common. To answer them, pursue these four conversations:
• Goal-setting: This should take place at the start of each project and be revisited at appropriate moments during the effort. You want to focus your team on exactly what needs to be done and by when.
• Praising: When you catch someone doing something right, reinforce that behaviour by sharing your appreciation.
• Redirecting: When someone is off track bring them back to their goal by advising exactly what needs to change.
• Wrapping up: At the end of each project or goal pursuit take time to celebrate accomplishments and underline what could be improved in the future.
4. Quick hits
• Entrepreneur John Rampton sets aside 15-minute intervals about six times a day to address the tasks that can suck time out from the day, such as checking e-mail, reviewing social media, and checking in with staff. He also uses a timer for activities likely to stretch beyond the time he wants to give.
• Consultant Ben Dattner advises you to interview people who turn down a job offer with your company. It can offer important information about your company, the industry, and competitors.
• Research shows office seating arrangements can affect productivity. Ideally, you should place individuals who excel in productivity near those who excel in quality, since a spillover effect seems to occur, encouraging them to be like their colleagues. Those who are generalists – equal at productivity and quality – can form their own group.
• Yet another study shows higher pay for chief executive officers does not produce better corporate performance. A report by MSCI of 429 large-cap U.S. companies found average shareholder returns were higher when a company's CEO was in the bottom 20 per cent in remuneration than when they were in the top 20 per cent.
• Self-affirmations are supposed to enhance our ability to achieve our goals. But a new study suggests asking a question is more effective. http://www.spring.org.uk/2016/07/question-can-help-motivate.php For example, "Will I exercise?" works better than "I will exercise" for a yet-to-be explained reason, increasing internal motivation.