Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What to do when you can't NOT communicate - Day 1 of the PAICR conference

Communication 101

Communication is a learned skill. We’re all born with the ability but it takes real practice to be good at it. So opined David Grossman, Founder of the Grossman Group, an award-winning Chicago PR firm.

Do I agree? Oh yes.

So what’s the upside of good communication asks David Grossman? Well it helps put strategy into action.

Done poorly? Misunderstanding, skepticism and damage to reputation

Why aren’t we doing it better?

Because we have beliefs that get in the way of working on the skills needed to be really good at communicating. Holding us back from greatness are beliefs and fear…
  •  We believe we are born good at it…therefore don’t practice…and don’t get better
  • We’re afraid of failing…and that fear stops us trying and learning new things or skills…or overcoming our blind spots
  • A belief that good communication is all “common sense”

Common sense it may be, but common practice it is not, says Grossman.

The ‘what does your boss want” question?

For example, ask yourself this…is your boss a “no news is good news” or “no news is bad news”? If you don’t know the answer Grossman says, you better find out. Your future, and theirs, may rely on it.

So how can it go wrong? In the “boss” example, if you have it wrong you’ll be working at cross purposes. Your manager may value, and want, one kind of communication but be getting something quite different from you.

Let’s say you’re an extrovert. Typically says Grossman, extroverts do a lot of talking. Extrovert = quantity of communication high, quality low (ouch).

Or an introvert? You’re likely to be communicating a lot less than you think you really are. Introvert = quantity is low, quality is high. But is everyone hearing you??

Game changers

Grossman offers three “game changers” particularly useful for leaders and communication people. They are understanding that:

  • 1.       Everything communicates…so being purposeful is critical
  • You can’t lead without communicating (really well). Or in other words, to be a leader you need followers!
  • Engagement is how you differentiate yourself…or “the boss makes the weather”…understanding how “watched” you are as a leader gives you the chance to control the consequences of your behavior and achieve greater engagement from colleagues.

So what’s the “new norm” for those seeking to communicate? 

From “me” to “we”

For employees we have to answer these questions…in order from 1 to 8.

In a way Grossman is suggesting it’s a goal to earn the right to answer the “we” questions.

  1. 1.       What’s my job?
  2. 2.       How am I doing?
  3.  Does anyone care about me?

  1. 4.       What’s going on?

  1. 5.       What’s our business strategy?
  2. 6.       How are we doing?
  3. 7.       What’s our vision and values?
  4. 8.       How can I help?

…and thus engagement results.

Great eight
There are “the Great eight basics” to help us as we communicate says Grossman...
  • 1.       Understand your audience
  • 2.       Make your messages clear, compelling and relevant
  • 3.       Plan your communication
  • 4.       Set context and make information relevant – something only the leader can do – answering the “why” we’re doing what we’re doing
  • 5.       Listen and check for understanding
  • 6.       Select the right vehicle
  • 7.       Communicate with truth and integrity
  • 8.       Match words and actions

A final tip for young players...

Conflict escalates faster and lasts longer on email than verbally. So STOP using “reply all”. Pick up the phone or walk the few feet up or down the hallway to “talk”. Yes Millennials and Gen Ys, there is a place for person-to-person communication. Walk & talk.

Fact or fiction?

Myths hold us back...according to Grossman they are:
  • 1.       Don’t have time to communicate
  • 2.       People won’t interpret…at BlueChip we call this the “people make stuff up in a vacuum” rule
  • 3.       Talking is communication…or put another way it really doesn’t matter what you say…it matters what they (our audience) hear

David Grossman has a bunch of ebooks and a blog. Based on what I heard today they’re worth a look.

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