August 18, 2008
I’ll admit it. I’m sort of addicted to the Olympics — but not for the reasons you’d expect. Sure, it’s always impressive to see what the human body can do. It can be fun to get into the spirit of the competition. But the thing that fascinates me is watching the faces of the athletes.
Sitting on my couch at home, all I can HEAR is the commentators. But when I pay attention to the faces of the athletes, they communicate so much more! For example, think about the parade of nations during that opening ceremony. Some of the athletes were clearly thrilled to participate in such a huge spectacle — big gleaming smiles. Some of them were nervous or perhaps a little overwhelmed — wide, searching eyes. Some of them felt the honor and the pageantry of the ceremony — serious expressions, just a hint of pride.
Forget the language barrier. They don’t have to speak. It’s all there, in their expressions and mannerisms.
And it got me thinking that this might be a useful practice for managers and leaders. Next time you’re sitting in a meeting, take a look around. Watch people. I mean, don’t stare, of course. But watch. If you tune in to the subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints that humans drop with their facial expressions, you might learn valuable secrets that will help you become a better leader.
August 4, 2008
Revealing your personality is the key.
For the past three posts I’ve been talking about why you should reveal your personality when you talk with your constituents. Check out the reasons here, here and here. So now we’ve got the reasons down… we know why it makes good business sense. Let’s come up with ideas for exactly HOW to inject a little personality into your communications. To get us started:
- Do your friends have a “typical you” story about you? Something that demonstrates how or why you are the way you are? For instance, my parents like to tell people that my first grade teacher called me a “little Hitler.” No, this is not really about facial hair… it’s more about the fact that I was a know-it-all bossy-pants who tried to run everything during playtime. (Well, and all the time really.) Sometimes I tell this story when my bossiness tries to rear its ugly head. It’s like a warning and a cry for help all in one: I’m about to get all dictatorial, but knowing I’m like that, help me reign it in, will ya? My point (I do have one): Learn how to tell that story about you well enough that you could rattle it right off, because it makes you human and shows you have enough of a sense of humor that you can poke a little fun at yourself.
- What does your spouse (or maybe your assistant?) tease you about? Are you always losing your keys? Do you practice your backswing when you think no one’s watching? Did they catch you humming a Barry Manilow tune? Whatever it is, sharing it with people is similar to the story-sharing above. It helps people relate to you as a person and not just as “my manager” or “the CEO.”
What other ideas do you have? Managers and leaders, what are you doing to reveal your personality at work?
July 24, 2008
Conversations by Louisa Bufardeci
Last week, my co-worker who leads our manager development program made the case that managers should invest their time initiating and continuing conversations with their team members, both as a team and as individuals. More than just chit-chat (although that’s important, too), he advocated enlightening conversations because managers have a chance to:
- find and answer questions
- clarify ambiguity
- provide important detail
- help advance projects and meet deadlines
- ensure your team is moving toward the same goals
Of course, because conversation is a two-way exchange, there are benefits for the employees on your team as well. They will appreciate the opportunity to:
- ask questions
- share their insights and concerns
- help improve how your team completes its work
Enabling these critical conversations is one of a leader’s greatest responsibilities. Because, if you think about it, most problems can be resolved through effective communication, and most innovations begin with conversation. The key is always keeping in mind the two-way exchange: both talking and actively listening.
July 14, 2008
Another lightbulb moment to report, courtesy of the Heath brothers. I’m reading their chapter in Made to Stick about making your ideas unexpected. And then they go and shift my paradigm with this:
“To make our communications more effective, we need to shift our thinking from “What information do I need to convey?” to “What questions do I want my audience to ask?” [p. 88]
The main differences in these questions, of course, are that:
- the first focuses on the monologue, the blah-blah-blah.
- and the second seeks dialogue. Conversation, that is — interaction.
Everyone’s asking why employees aren’t engaged — isn’t it possible they’re not engaged because we’re not engaging them? We’re not giving them the chance to ask the questions they want to ask, directly and free from unnecessary filters. Everyone’s asking how to fight the grapevine — isn’t it possible the best way to fight rumors and gossip is with facts? Why aren’t we talking with employees? Why aren’t we being more serious about this?
As a communicator it’s often frustrating that I can’t personally do more to affect employee engagement. But this new question to ask myself may be the way I can contribute: What questions do I want my audience to ask? I might have to approach my writing and communications planning in a whole different way.
June 30, 2008
Let’s start by honoring a guy who knew how to communicate in a clear, direct and entertaining way — in such a way that you can still recite to this day: “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s faithful one hundred percent.” Of course those are the immortal words of Dr. Suess’s 1968 book Horton Hatches the Egg, a book that still teaches responsibility and integrity 40 years later.
But it was the part about saying what you mean and meaning what you say that always captured my imagination. How often do we see THAT happen? I know a guy who says that 80 percent of the time, we leave a conversation either misunderstanding the other person or being misunderstood by them. We can’t affort a statistic like that. We can’t afford to be missing connections that often.
So that’s why I’m here. Despite being a professional communicator for more than 10 years, I learn something new about it every single day. I want to share what I’m learning, and I hope you’ll share too. Maybe if we’re all talking about it… practicing!… we can get better at this together.