This Will Impact All of Your Communication
You are a leader, a consultant, a manager, a committee chair. . .you want to make sure your message creates trust and acceptance in the hearts and minds of the listeners, shines a light that brightens the path you want people to walk, and generates the degree of alignment found in the works of the world's finest orchestras and enterprises.
If there's a single word in the paragraph above that applies to you, then I suggest you consider participating in this workshop: Bluepoint Leadership's "The Leader's Voice."
Ron Crossland (left) is a co-designer of the methodology with his late partner, Boyd Clarke. Ron's workshop leadership reflects an authentic passion for, and knowledge of, both the research and application of new communication findings. Here's one example:
What do you think about the effectiveness of your communication? How would those around you answer the same question?
In a survey of 1,104 employees conducted in 2002, 86% of respondents stated that their bosses believed that they (bosses) were really good communicators. Only 17% of their employees put them in that category. Now there is a gap that requires understanding as well as a solution.
Bridging the Gap
Last week I participated in one of the workshops along with an executive from one of my client groups. He and I work together to craft and implement communication and alignment initiatives with the company's CEO. We were looking for new ways to help the CEO see and understand more effective
ways to comfortably deliver messages with maximum impact. Our dilemma: After many years and a trusting relationship, we didn't seem to be able to make a dent in his thinking using the approaches we knew were effective. In other words, our message wasn't getting through. And his well-prepared, positive, and factual presentations weren't gaining any credibility with some of his key constituencies.
What is a "Leader's Voice?"
Not the voice our client was currently struggling with.
He had been receiving data from the business units and had his facts lined up. The problem was, he he and his team were focusing on the Factual but ignored two other channels of leadership communication—the Emotional and the Symbolic channels. If you want to lead people and gain their trust and understanding, you have to communicate using all
three channels. I think we all know that people receive messages in different ways. What business leaders don't realize is that rational facts don't prompt emotional responses (unlesss, of course, your facts show that you are about to go belly-up). Regardless of what conventional business wisdom would like to have you think, decisions aren't made on rational facts. Facts are ingredients that need to be linked to the emotional spark that causes some electricity in our hearts and minds. Finally, people need a symbolic reference point to cement the visual image for the future. Take a look around your office. What photos, mementos, souvenirs do you see? Many are probably symbols of an experience, a project, or an activity that allows you to stay connected for months and even years.
How To Boost the Impact of Your Communication
Start thinking in threes: Facts, Emotions, Symbols
When you start reflecting on your message, make room for all three of these channels:
Factual. Interpret, don't do a checklist.
The factual channel isn't about the data, it's about what it means. The interpretation. Listeners don't want you to read and recite what they can do on their own. They want you to answer some connect-the-dots questions for them: "What do you make of all of this?" "Is there enough to draw a reasonable conclusion?" "If so, what's your conclusion?" "What logic or process did you use to put it all together?"
Emotional. Yours and theirs.
In 2000, Jeff Bezos of amazon.com opened his letter to shareholders with this: "Ouch. It's been a brutal year."
That simple statement made him human, revealed his own feelings, showed that he understood how they were feeling, and wasn't hiding the truth of the situation.
When dealing with your organization, the late Peter Drucker put it like this: "They aren't employees, they're people."
The word Authenticity is used frequently as a trait to be desired and valued. But you can't possibly connect authentically without acknowledging how you feel about the situation you are describing. If you stick to the numbers or the steps in your plan, you aren't connecting. Why? Because the people around you know that you're a person, too, and they want to know how the situation is impacting you. They aren't asking for group therapy. They just want to know who you are. The facts don't show that. And, they want to know that you've thought about how they might be feeling, too.
Once you reveal both, your Leadership Voice becomes deeper, stronger, and genuine:
"We're moving into 5 new markets in Asia. I'm excited and more than a little scared at the same time. We've never done this before so it's a trip into the unknown. The trip has been planned but we don't know where the detours will be. I was talking with the engineering team that designed our new facilities there. I heard how frustrating it was to work with new contractors and to have some of the schedules go longer than expected because of local regulations. You persevered and got the job done, but that doesn't change the emotional roller coaster ride that every new day seemed to bring. Combined with the sacrifice of missing your families, the whole experience took you on ups and downs. I'm personally moved by your willingness to set aside the usual comforts of life to make the business future for all of us more promising."
Symbolic Channel: Painting the Metaphorical Monet
How many songs can you sing from your teenage years? Maybe all of them?! How about sharing your favorite family story passed from generation to generation at yearly holiday dinners? The imagery associated with stories and symbols burns deeply into our memories. In business, if you don't define your image your constituents will. The mind abhors a vacuum.
George Lakoff in "Metaphors We Live By" notes "You don't have a choice as to whether to think metaphorically. Because metaphorical maps are part of our brains, we will think and speak metaphorically whether we want to or not."
If that's the case, then the third channel of the speech above might conclude with: "We've all learned about the pioneers who headed West into the unknown. The great explorers braved 40 foot ocean swells in boats no larger than the length of some of our homes. Covered wagons crossed plains, mountains, and deserts that still challenge the most modern all-terrain vehicles made today. Few of those people knew the actual destination let alone the detours along the way. We've decided to head East for the same reasons. New opportunities, providing services and products for people who don't yet have them...now we are the Pioneers. And we have the honor to be a part of that legacy as we work together to navigate the detours and build a new life for our company and our customers."
(L) Deneen Johnson of Bluepoint Leadership with
(R) Melody Johnson, HR Associate, Solvay Pharmaceuticals
Professional Note: I'm not affiliated with nor do I receive any compensation for discussing The Leader's Voice.
Why would I write about what would appear to be a competitor? Because they are doing important work that can impact the effectiveness and very nature of business leaders and authentic leadership.That has been our own mission for 30 years. I believe that neither life nor consulting is a zero sum game.
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