Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Managing Multiple Audiences

The Greater Akron Chamber has a mission to drive economic development for the benefit of all citizens in the Greater Akron metro market. The Chamber focuses on job creation, advocacy and business services. As a nonprofit, funded by business, we have two primary roles the community. At the core, we offer direct economic development services, represent business as the voice on policy issues impacting the business climate and direct programs to enhance a company’s bottom line.

A secondary role is as a convener or collaborator on major issues, initiatives or programs that help to build a community that is globally competitive for business and talent attraction, retention, expansion and creation. In the role as a collaborator, we bring together the stakeholders, government, business, education and political leaders to stabilize the right solutions to impact job creation and capital investment.

There are several challenges when bringing different constituents together around what seems like a common theme. I want to start with using an example of Talent Development. If 4,700 additional students earn a four-year degree, it would mean a $500 million economic impact annually to our metro area. All the stakeholders would agree that an increase in education attainment is the key to economic development services. Each group involved can be challenged by limited staff capacity, local and state funding and too many organizations trying to play a leadership role.  Many organizations will say they have the solution and the programs to accomplish a goal of increasing education attainment.

The key to any successful collaboration is for a consistent effort to listen, ask several questions, learn by asking more questions and to communicate what you heard to be sure and capture the motivation for engagement. In any effort to partner, all participants have a need and desire to play a role in the ultimate goal. Everyone needs to give up something, while everyone gains value for their constituency, therefore more gets done collectively and in turn a win-win is accomplished. A key to this effort is trust and being open and honest is important. You can be honest but not totally open.

The emerging leaders will have the greatest success by practicing the basics of communication, building multiple relationships and by giving time and energy to initiatives without expecting an immediate personal or professional benefit. By working with multiple groups of people you learn about different leadership styles, improve your communication skills and connect with different audiences that will help you down the road as you gain additional responsibilities and leadership opportunities.

While this is a broad subject, it is important to hone the skills described above and learn from the example of others who manage multiple groups well. Please feel free to ask questions and provide feedback in the comments section below. Thanks for your interest. 

Dan Colantone
President & CEO
Greater Akron Chamber

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