Sep19 2011

Wise Words from the Ancients

When times get tough the tough get going…..but companies cannot afford to lose their best people even during difficult times. Keeping staff well informed and committed is even more important in these economically rocky days.

Sun Tzu, the Chinese general and author of the respected book of battlefield strategy – ‘The Art of War’ – had much to say about communicating with troops. If people matter, then company leaders should think long and hard about his words.

Sun Tzu called for clear communications for armies to function smoothly and avoid threats.

“If the army is confused and suspicious, neighbouring rulers will take advantage of this and cause trouble. This is simply bringing anarchy into the army and flinging victory away”

Like much of ‘The Art of War’ the message for business is clear. Misinformation and rumours spread like the diseases they sometimes become. In good times and especially challenging times, it’s easy for suspicion and speculation to impact the morale and lower the productivity of people. As Sun Tzu warns it will lead to loss.     

The business world can sometimes seem like a battlefield and looking after people is essential. Employees will not feel valued if they aren’t being communicated with effectively and meaningfully. Lack of communication leads to rumour, speculation and gossip.

Sun Tzu knew that an organisation that understood the strategy, was united and had a strong fighting spirit had the advantage.

“Pay attention to the soldier’s well being and do not fatigue them. Try to keep them in high spirits and conserve their energy”

How many business leaders truly appreciate this point? How many understand that effective communication with their people will give them a real advantage in both good and especially bad times?

In fact some more up to date evidence reinforces the wise words of Sun Tzu. Research by leading professional services company Towers Watson is revealing.  It shows that effective internal communication leads to higher people retention rates, greater staff commitment and a market valuation often 20% higher than companies with poor internal communication.

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