Book Review: Talk, Inc.

Trust is an essential element of leadership, but how exactly do we build that trust as leaders? Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind propose just that in their book, Talk, Inc.: How Trusted Leaders use Conversation to Power their Organizations. It’s one of the best books I have read on “how” to embark on the journey of trust-building in organizations. It doesn’t settle for wordy but useless statements like “leaders should generate trust in their followers”. Rather, it provides numerous examples–from a number of cultures and industries–of what leaders are doing to embrace conversations in their organizations. These authentic conversations help to build the trust needed for organizations to thrive.

The authors present numerous ideas from mostly non-mainstream companies–many of which I hadn’t heard of before. I found this refreshing as they didn’t recycle the same old ideas (do we really ever need another commentary on GE’s work-out program?).. They interviewed leaders of a few Indian companies as well, presenting an intriguing cultural perspective that is important for us to understand as our organizations continue to globalize.

Groysberg and Slind argue that there has been a significant shift in organizations in recent years. Leaders simply cannot delegate communications to professional communicators. They must adopt organizational communication as their responsibility, not someone else’s. This shift has occurred for five main reasons (see page 7):
1. Economic Change – As workplaces become more knowledge-based, organizations must find more sophisticated ways to communicate.
2. Organizational Change – As organizations become flatter, all directions of communication (lateral, bottom-up etc.) are as important as top-down communication.
3. Global Change – Workforces are becoming more culturally diverse, and this is forcing organizations to adapt their communication amidst these cultural dynamics.
4. Generational Change – Millenials are infiltrating leadership positions and are expecting leaders to communicate directly with them.
5. Technological Change – Various technologies (including social media) are allowing direct access to the source, and enabling leaders to communicate in different ways to employees.

I have reached similar conclusions in my own research and still believe HR Leaders need to take on the social aspects of their organization. I believe that corporate communications functions in most organizations will become integrated into HR Departments (if they haven’t already), as organizations learn to understand and value the power of the collective voice of their employees. Talk, Inc. gives us numerous examples of “How” organizations are doing this, and I highly recommend it for any leader pondering a change effort in his/her organization. I also recommend it for any leader taking an a new leadership challenge. This book will give you the tools needed to better understand the intricate social and communication fabric of your organization.

Note: I purchased this book myself and have no affiliation with the authors or the publisher.

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