Navigating Government Communication
As we venture into the complexities of today’s world, the value of gaining perspective from outside the Washington, DC beltway becomes increasingly apparent. Stepping back to appreciate situations differently is a skill that has proven indispensable in navigating the ever-changing landscape of government, communication, and leadership.
Lessons From Junior Sailors
Let me take you back to my early days as an ensign on my first ship. Junior sailors, craving information, would often jokingly compare themselves to mushrooms left to grow in the dark. A mere three meals and a daily muster seemed insufficient; they longed to grasp the big picture. I, as one of the most junior officers on board, had access to a larger vision simply because of my proximity to the ship’s leaders, while they did not.
Have we truly evolved in how we lead and communicate, or are we still ensnared by the same pitfalls?
Having spent a significant part of my career inside the beltway, I have gained a deep understanding of the insularity that engulfs Washington, DC. The sources of information often circulate within their own loops. At industry events, trade shows, receptions, and board meetings, conversations can easily become an echo chamber of “Did you hear?” or “Did you know?” It’s easy to assume that everyone “knows,” even when some are left in the dark, or worse, fed incorrect information. Even in challenging times like a pandemic, networks often reinforce themselves instead of growing.
Baffled by where this is leading? Bear with me.
Perspective Holds Unyielding Value
Today, many of my clients operate outside the beltway, yet their fate hinges on decisions made within it – decisions about their future programs, funding, and policies. While businesses across the country may feel they understand the state of play, it often stems from a specific perspective. They stay informed through the news and being well-read, but the sources of their information may be two or three layers removed from the real story or its underlying impact.
True, actionable information holds immense value.
Your entire government customer constellation might assume that what they know is common knowledge. Moreover, they may also believe that the information they “know” is always correct. However, as it turns out, assumptions can lead us astray more often than not.
Taking Control of the Dialogue
Do you genuinely know what your customer knows? Do you believe your customer knows what you know? Are you working with a shared understanding to achieve mutually agreed outcomes?
If you each assume the other is well-informed, you may be surprised at the gaps in your knowledge. Effective, active, appropriate, and timely communication is a shared responsibility.
So, disencumber yourself from being a mushroom in the dark. Take control of the dialogue. Be astute.
Need assistance engaging with the federal government for policy or accessing funding for your product? Reach out, and I’ll guide you through.
For a copy of my book, Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring Circus of Federal Sales, and more information on federal sales, visit Capitol Integration.