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
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
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
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
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
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