Communication skills are great in theory, but how are they in practice? This Effective Communication Skill Blogshows you how to walk the SpeakStrong talk. I'm Meryl Runion Rose. Join our conversation about Communication Alchemy, and saying what you mean and meaning what you say... without being mean when you say it.
The Communication Alchemist is IN. Are you IN too?
Dan Mulhern posted today about "owning the space" we stand in. He referred to actors owning the stage and how his wife Jennifer owns the front of a courtroom when she prosecutes. It's about where you belong and how you show up there.
It's not about posturing. It's not about pretending. It's about claiming and embodying expertise.
I commented on his post that when independent business owners find their brand, the brand is about the space they own already. For example, I own business phrasing. Not that others don't play in that field - and play well. But business communication and particularly phrasing is where I shine. It's an expertise I bring to the table. It's a space I continually own more deeply.
My phrase books provide phrases based on that ownership. For example, admins often don't fully speak in ways that say "I'm an administrative professional. I own this space." All the phrases in the Perfect Phrases for Office Professionals book are based on that kind of professional ownership.
What's your arena? Where can you say,
I own this space
...and do you show up in ways that reinforce that claim?
I heard a nuclear physicist compare the construction of a proposed plant on the US east coast as playing Russian Roulette. He spoke of all the dangers and then went on to explain that he was lobbying against its construction as "a bad investment due to the risk".
He was apologetic for his financial argument for what he clearly felt was a major safety and moral issue. But I didn't have a problem with it at all. Effective communication means speaking in terms people relate to. This man is lobbying based on his own sense of social responsibility. I respect that. I also respect the fact that he knows what motivates the decision-makers he seeks to influence. We deal with the world as it is - not as we think it should be. In doing that, we are better equipped to effect positive change.
Last fall, Karl, the CEO of Vibco, a manufacturing company that applies Lean Manufacturing, bought copies of my books for all his managers and found them to be very effective. He also hired me to speak for a YPO (Young Presidents' Organization) Lean Manufacturing event. I attended the entire conference and was surprised by how meaningful the event was for me. I gave the closing keynote, which I customized to guide the leaders toward having effective conversations about implementing what they had learned when they returned to their companies.
During the conference, I discovered a whole new world of like-minded people sincerely interested in creating productive work environments where everyone wins. I'm still processing what happened for me, but I will say it was exhilarating, affirming and transformative. I talked about it with Karl on his radio show Lean Nation last Tuesday. You can listen to the podcast here.
I listened in while on hold with the president of a manufacturing company. He was speaking with some of his managers about an efficiency issue. "It's stupid to be looking for carts," he said. "It's a waste. Get with your team and see how to apply lean here."
His words didn't just address the issue - they affirmed the company commitment to the lean management approach. Strong leaders tie day-to-day activities into the bigger picture. What we say each day either reenforces or undermines the bigger direction. Big declarations start the process, but the real power comes in day-to-day conversations.
You may not run a manufacturing company - but, do your daily words reflect what you say you stand for?
Last summer I spoke with a man I've known since my teens who became a nuclear physicist. It was chilling for me to hear about how he left his job as the head of a nuclear power plant because of the disregard for safety. "I couldn't change it and I didn't want my name on it", he explained.
That comment has new significance in the light of recent events. One of the experts I've heard interviewed about the ongoing crisis in Japan not only quit his company, he went public about the danger.
It's one level of integrity to discover a danger, injustice or error and choose not to participate at cost to ourselves. It's another level to tell the world. It's not easy to be a whistle-blower. Some whistle-blowers find themselves whistling in the dark. Sometimes, if we wait until the world is ready to hear what we know, we can be more effective. Speaking STRONG requires continual judgment calls.
Whatever decision we make, it's important that we be completely honest with one person about our decision to speak out or not speak out. Ourselves.
I discuss that in skill-set #6 in my book Speak STRONG. Establish standards for honesty. One guideline is to pick battles big enough to matter and small enough to win. I'd say nuclear power plant safety issues are big enough to matter - wouldn't you? And in light of recent events, i think more people are ready to listen.
There's a difference between learning how to do something—and actually doing it. There's a difference between having the tools to make changes and actually changing things. The best information in the world is useless without the essential pieces to put it into practice.
Last week I attended an incredibly well-planned conference that was structured to make the information real.
That's only one of many examples I will use to illustrate how classroom reality and book learning can be applied in a workplace reality. It's through Professional Development University - there is a fee for each station. Everyone who attends earns CEUs.
"The Social Network" is a fun and interesting movie. But I followed it up the same way I follow up most docudramas - by trying to find out what's real and what's fiction. Screenwriter Sorkin is quoted as saying,
"I don’t want my fidelity to be to the truth; I want it to be to storytelling."
Okay - I get that - but the fact is most of us watch docudrama's thinking we're learning about actual events. Couldn't you at least provide some fact-checking of your own in the extras? I like a good story, too - but it reminds me of the friend who forwarded a scathing political email with the comment that "most of this has been verified by snopes.com". And the rest of it? Propaganda added to a world that has enough trouble separating fact from fiction.
I'd like to see fidelity to good story-telling married to fidelity to truth. Then we'd really be SpeakingSTRONG.
I feel like I was transported to an alternate universe this week. It's a universe where leaders don't think efficiency needs to happen at the cost of connection and humanness. It was a lean manufacturing conference for YPO - Young President's Organization. I loved hearing about how they run their companies.
Fastcap is just one of the superstar companies whose president attended the conference. His people spend their first hour at work every day simply fixing things. They sort, sweep and standardize. Now, that sounds pretty mechanical, but it's not, as you can see in the video below. If you think it's a bit goofy, I'm with you. I do, too. And I love it.
"Here’s how to use a keynote speaker. Tell them you want them to talk to 10% of the people attending the retreat prior to their speech, and then to summarize their findings as the top three ideas or action items that would benefit this company. If the speaker isn’t excited by this process, pass - no matter how many best-selling books they have or how good your friend said they are."