by Chuck Kuglen
Sitting in the “Executive Communicator” course we delivered the other day, I noticed a couple graphics that had extreme power. They were so good that you did not need to read about them or even describe (in bullets or otherwise) what they represented to a topic. Also, as a lazy sales and business development person, I “gestalted” that I should use graphics more to convey messages to people.
Instead of writing about something, or even worse having to do a PowerPoint on it, I like those graphics that are so powerful they cover the conversation without conversing. This is a section in a couple of courses about “mediums/media” and sophisticated ways to influence.
There has also been a LOT in the press of late about the recent passing of Storm Thorgerson. If you do not know of Storm, you probably are not a big music person. But you may identify with him now even if you are not a raving music fan. Instead of talking/writing about it, let’s have a dialogue about Storm in terms of the graphical images he created. This guy was amazing and most of us never knew about him until he died.
If you want to see hundreds or more than the handful here.
This year, I resolve to be more interested than interesting. I’m kind of an information junkie so I love to find ways to interject bits of trivia into conversations.
For instance, suppose we are having a conversation about George Washington and I say, “Did you know that George Washington had a set of teeth that were carved out of hippopotamus bone?” Fascinating, I know, but that piece of information was about me being clever not about finding interest in you and your interests. I’m not really listening. I am just waiting for my opportunity to say something quirky and clever. So, I resolved in 2013 to ask more questions and really listen intently to the other person.
This little article is a great reminder of what is at the heart of truly listening to someone.
Listening is so important that many top employers give regular listening skills training for their employees. This is not surprising when you consider that good listening skills can lead to: better customer satisfaction, greater productivity with fewer mistakes, increased sharing of information that in turn can lead to more creative and innovative work.
photo credit: Lisa Sjolund
Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Denise Green of Brilliance Inc.
In a courageous interview about the near-death of Netflix, CEO Reed Hastings admitted “I messed up” and “got distracted by the shiny object,” spinning off a business instead of “executing on the fundamentals.”
Here are three of my least favorite ‘shiny objects’ when it comes to leading and motivating people:
- Performance management, and
- Open-space floor plans
All of these give the illusion of progress. They feed a leader’s need to be seen as worthy of his salary and title. But they don’t work. Worse, all of them create distractions that disrupt productivity, sap morale, and dehumanize employees.
So, what really motivates people to do their best work and feel engaged and inspired by a company and its leaders?
Meaningful work aligned with their strengths, and the brain-space to actually make measurable, significant progress on that work.
A leader’s job then is to provide support and remove distractions. Instead, most leaders and companies create environments riddled with distractions and stressors.
It takes a courageous, confident leader to actually learn, listen, and as Hastings puts it, focus on the core strengths of the business and execute. It takes strength of will to avoid so called “best-practice” trends that have no merit.
Want to know the 5 critical ingredients needed for people to truly feel motivated and to do their best work? Check out my Recipe for Brilliance post inspired by research by Dan Pink, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.
And don’t get distracted by the shiny object.
“Nothing jangles a primate like crowding”
Neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, quoted by David Rock in his article Misunderstanding the Brain is Bad for Business about the downsides of open floor plans.
“Don’t even consider recommending a reorganization. Anyone who requires more than one reorg over the life of his or her career will forfeit a year’s income (including bonuses and stock options) and possibly serve jail time.”
~ Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst “Best” Practices of Business Today by Susan Scott
If you’ve been a victim of shiny-object-leadership, what coping strategies got you through and kept you sane?
photo credit: AshleyCampbellPhotography
“No speech was ever too short,” a duo of legendary admen famously advised, and Plimpton agrees: He wrote this the year TED was founded and, like any great oracle of culture, he intuited the format-meme that TED would eventually rein in, arguing for the supremacy of the 20-minute talk over the hour-long academic-style lecture:
As anyone who listens to speeches knows, brevity is an asset. Twenty minutes are ideal. An hour is the limit an audience can listen comfortably.
In mentioning brevity, it is worth mentioning that the shortest inaugural address was George Washington’s — just 135 words. The longest was William Henry Harrison’s in 1841. he delivered a two-hour, nine-thousand -word speech into the teeth of a freezing northeast wind. He came down with a cold the following day, and a month later he died of pneumonia.
by Terry Gault
Using jargon is a sure way to create barriers between you and your audience. Using simple language is always preferable to acronyms and insider terms.
A client in a recent workshop shared the MBA Jargon Watch with me. They describe the site this way:
MBA Jargon Watch is the illegitimate brainchild of an MBA and full-time member of the dotcom petite bourgeoisie (I got a promotion). The intent of the Web site is to elucidate, amuse, and gently mock users and consumers of management, business, and consulting jargon. The definitions listed were selected using JargonRank, a proprietary measure based on the word's frequency of use among management professionals, students, professors and staff.
I got a number of good laughs reading this. Here's one choice example:
boil the ocean (v. phrase)
Clearly the least efficient way to produce a pile of salt. If a member of the corporate pantheon suggests you are trying to "boil the ocean," he or she thinks you are doing something incredibly inefficiently. It's time to prepare your resume, Einstein.
photo credit: gavin llewellyn
by Chuck Kuglen
I was recently given a UK-based article about the “top 5 reasons communications” fail in the workplace. Other than some inappropriate spaces and odd spellings from the writer in our motherland, I’d add a very few critical and obvious caveats to the conversation. And an action or two. I’m a very short attention span person, if there is not some sort of call to action I’ll likely do nothing!
First, in my mind, “trust” trumps many aspects of communication. If you do not trust an organization, you’re probably not listening anyway. Or you find yourself poking fun at miscommunications, the organization, or a group or person within. If you do not trust someone, your boss, employee, executive, etc.—you’ll also have a bias in mistrust. And you’ll not “trust” what you hear or do not hear.
Second, most people find ways to communicate directly with those they like in an organization. They often do it with facial expressions, casual conversations, and “inside” talk about how they’ll support each other. In a word, they build alliances. They’ll rarely give focus time to people (leaders, groups) who they’ve already found a reason to not listen to. Those they do not like or trust. So it does not matter how well they’re really listening. And they take this bias back to others within their groups or work structures. This is precisely how and where “walls” are built.
More importantly, you’ll rarely find incredible listening, with honest/candid feedback and trust, even within functioning groups. It takes time and a skill-set people do not take time to develop. And, while it clearly influences numbers/results/revenue, you’ll often see this lacking on sales teams. And groups noted for their supposed “listening” abilities.
Take a peek at the linked article here, how are you as a listener? Could you spend 1-3 hours on this skill which comes back to you in saved hours communicating almost immediately? Do you have any fair to middling listeners with whom you work? Be honest, if we listened to one another better, could we see better results?
We have short modular “giving/receiving feedback” and listening programs like “How am I Driving?” We also can help if you want to try and “train-the-trainer” on coaching programs for leaders/managers within the structure. It takes minimal time and you can set up a beachhead for coaching activity with key people who influence others. Finally, let us know if you’re interested in this aspect of your communication but have no time. We can send you an article or exercise to practice on at home or with one person you often speak with.
photo credit: krossbow
by Terry Gault
I am a car guy. I have driven muscle cars, European sports sedans, and a Tesla roadster. A client took me for a spin in his Ferrari in the Oakland hills. In each case … laws were broken.
I got such a big laugh out of this. This campaign is very effective because it's a very clever premise, is well executed and very funny. Enjoy!
The ability to both give and receive candid performance feedback is critical in highly dynamic, fast-moving organizations.
photo credit: clagnut
I travel somewhere between 15 and 35 times each year. I rarely think about how much I travel as I’ve become more mobile in how, where, and when I work. And, since I do not travel as much for business, I’ve become more pragmatic/economical with every dollar I spend. It comes out of my pocket more than it did in the past when all I had to do was submit expenses to an employer. I saw some recent ideas and sites in Conde Nast which I thought I’d combine with a couple of my own.
- If you do not already use SeatGuru, try it when you book your next flight. It’s a no-brainer and I was surprised to hear a couple friends who travel (a LOT) recently tell me they’d never heard of it. Tons of free value getting the best seats on the plane.
- I used to use Orbitz to get a sampling of “who travels where.” Kayak is the best site, as an aggregator for many, these days. They have a good interface.
- Fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. Always the cheapest (I travel a ton for fun and not always business. If I’m traveling on my money…I get more “bang for the buck” on good deals. You also get upgraded more easily on these days (depending on destination of course).
- Buy airline tickets midday on Tuesdays. Try this, I have been doing it more and more and it works.
- Stay over on Sundays. This is an easy one. It usually makes little difference to come back early on Mondays. It’s almost always a better time and cheaper.
- Carry one (no more than 2) Airline-branded credit card that earns you elite status. There are not many out there. AMEX is also good as you can use it on any airline.
- Book through “top producers.” I dislike it when every real estate agent uses this. But it works in Travel. As in sales, find the “right” human being. The travel agent who sends the most travelers to a leading hotel or cruise line will be able to get you the most perks. These usually come in the form of resort-credits, complimentary meals, and/or free upgrades. Ask an agent whether he is on any travel companies advisory boards.