The dizzy heights of success

Does height matterDoes height really matter? Is green more friendly than red? Helen Wilson finds out about some of the more unusual workplace challenges and how you can overcome them.

In my opinion tall women have it pretty good. Whether they’re strutting down the catwalks of Paris and Milan or the high street in Skegness, they gain admiring glances; clothes hang off them stylishly and elegantly; sore feet must be a foreign ailment to them as high heels just aren’t necessary. And to top it all off, on average they earn more than their shorter female counterparts, according to several studies.

This created a bit of a debate in the Sequel offices on whether height really does make a difference in business. Being on the shorter side of life myself (5ft 3 ¾), I have always been very aware of people literally talking down to me. The connotations of being short can often be ‘cute’ or ‘pocket sized’ and while I can’t speak for all vertically challenged people, I do find myself stretching out my spine to full capacity when speaking to taller people in an effort  to be taken more seriously.

I listened with interest to Russell Grossman’s presentation at the IoIC annual conference as he pointed out that most CEOs are more than six feet tall. Now considering that securing a meeting with your CEO is as rare as finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it’s not unusual to see people holding impromptu meetings with their CEO in a corridor as they stride towards their next appointment. Not only is it hard to keep up but eye contact, a key communication tool, is near on impossible.

Russell’s advice was you should always try to have your meetings sitting down. Not always easy when you are at the mercy of the CEO’s PA but it is far easier to get your point across when you are at eye level. Quite obvious when you think about it but it really could make all the difference.

This got me thinking. How do other internal communicators adapt their approach to deal with different situations and people? What do you pull out of your bag of communicator tricks to ensure you present yourself in the right way and are heard by your peers?

So I put it out to our Aspic LinkedIn community and IC peers and here were some of the responses:

  • When I used to email a colleague who was more technically minded I found that if it contained several paragraphs he would only respond to the first one. I realised that he processed information differently to the way my editorial brain does so I now send him short bullet pointed emails and I get answers to all my questions!
  • Work out what’s in it for them and adapt your message to appeal to them at their level. If you segment your audience and know what channel, what message and what time will be right for each segment you can adapt your approach accordingly.
  • When I used to do an update for a client I would put the bits I needed from him in red as I thought that would make sure he wouldn’t miss them. However, he always got a bit defensive about it and seemed to interpret it as I was telling him off. I changed the colour of the comments to green the next time and he responded far more positively! I think the colour red can have negative connotations and making this small change helped me to get the information I needed far more easily.
  • When working on a project you tend to accept small changes gracefully and keep on working because additions are not usually a big deal. But a few hours/days later, you realise that the manageable project is now a headache. Always talk to the stakeholder or client in person or over the phone — not through email — so that you can have a two-way conversation and outline what the original brief included and agree a way forward you’re both comfortable with.