Blackwell Consulting Services connects with its employees Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2008

For Annette Tarver, getting

her point across isn’t the

most important part of communication.

“It’s all about listening and

really seeking to understand

what the issues and challenges

are,” says Tarver, president of

Blackwell Consulting Services

of Ohio LLC, an information

technology and management

consultancy.

To open up the lines of communication, Tarver develops

one-on-one relationships with

her employees at the company,

which posted 2007 revenue of

about $6.5 million and employs

more than 50 people.

Smart Business spoke with

Tarver about how to develop

one-on-one relationships with

your employees and how to be

a better communicator.

Q. How do you develop

one-on-one relationships

with employees?

We start through our hiring

process and have an on-boarding process that we think is

pretty comprehensive. It

includes a lot of things that

would be considered touch

points for the individuals, the

things that matter to them.

We try to stay connected on

those touch points throughout

their employment, things like

what their passions are, and we

try to match those to volunteer

opportunities that they can participate in. Some people are

engaged with sports through

their kids, and we try to do

things that support their activities inside and outside the office.

Community involvement and

volunteerism is one of our core

values. So, we try to match

them up along those lines, as well, to some things that they’re

passionate about that they can

add value to in a community

service setting.

Q. What advice would you

give to someone who wants

to be a better communicator?

I think communication is

learned. I don’t think it is something that comes naturally for

everybody.

There’s some people who can

communicate very easily. They’re

gregarious — it’s a personality

thing where they are comfortable doing it. People who

are uncomfortable doing

it — I know a lot of leaders that this is not a skill

they have developed.

One of the easiest ways

to do it is to do something that is very benign

and nonpersonal and

nonconfrontational. One

of the things that we do,

as we find articles of

interest ... we send them

out to people saying, ‘I

read this in such and

such a publication, and I

thought it might be of

interest to you.’

It’s the idea of sharing

some information, doing

a little knowledge transfer and just say, ‘I’d be

interested in hearing your comments about it, or know what

you think about this,’ and open

up that dialogue.

Then it allows the other person — they may not be comfortable, either ... it allows them

to have an opportunity to read

over the materials and then say,

‘Thanks for sending it to me; it

was great. I thought the points

that they made might be applicable to something we are

doing at such and such a client,’

or ‘I’m going to use these techniques in something I’m doing

external to the office.’

I find that to be very helpful.

People appreciate getting information from you and the fact

that you are thinking about

some of the things they might

be doing and ways you can

apply best practices to that.

Q. What is the biggest

challenge with communication?

Just keeping up with it.

Making sure I’m in touch in one

form or another with just about

everybody at least monthly.

We’ve got a newsletter that

we’re developing that we’ll be

sending out. We use part of the

space in that to talk about our

business but another part of it

to just talk about what employees in the company are doing

externally. ... We try to highlight

the things employees are doing,

generally, so we can have a

holistic kind of approach to

who we are.

Q. How has good communication benefited the company?

People feel very cohesive as a

team. I think they are engaged

with one another at a level

beyond just, ‘Oh, this is my colleague at work.’

Typically, people feel more

passionate about things that

they’ll do in their personal lives

if they can make some connection to their professional life. I

think they just do a better job

because they feel more valued

as a person.

Q. Is there any other advice

you want to add?

In my experience, the value of

a positive attitude and just the

concept of, ‘Yes we can,’ has

been very helpful. Like most

business, we have our ups and

downs, our challenges.

I think when everyone else

wants to give up for whatever

reason, as a leader, it’s your

responsibility to push forward

and to be the No. 1 cheerleader,

and encouraging, saying, ‘We

can get this done just as well as

anyone else can.’ Really do the

rallying cry. Having that kind of

enthusiasm as a leader and having the perseverance and the

courage to say, ‘We can do this,’

is very important.

HOW TO REACH: Blackwell Consulting Services of Ohio LLC, (866) 997-2276 or www.bcsohio.com