Sunday, October 23, 2011

Talk won't make a tree fall

In the forest, it is important to pay attention to the trees to be cut. Figuring out where and how they will fall is critical to the safety of those who cut trees. It can mean the difference between life and death. But all of the planning doesn’t bring down a single tree. Is your organization like that?

We stress the importance of planning, determining focus, aligning goals, and setting up realistic timelines. Until you put the ax to the tree – actually do something – however, all of the other “stuff” is just “stuff.”

Most organizations have individuals who love to plan. Charts, diagrams, and presentations make them feel warm all over. But, as important, doers are needed; action is required.

You may have folks from the other side of the aisle – who act first and then think about ways of making the action fit a plan. They just want to get out there and do it – whatever “it” is. Their attitude is “give me and ax and show me a tree.”

The most productive organizations have individuals of both types. For optimum success, leadership needs to facilitate planning, focus, goals, and timelines. . . and . . . through it all, make sure you cut down the trees.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The two most critical factors for success

The future dictates the present – focus.
Actions speak (produce) louder (more) than words – where we put our efforts is what we get.

1. Write those two statements on the board for your next staff meeting.
2. Allow the first few minutes to be spent in silence while each individual evaluates his/her program,    and the program of the organization against those two statements.
3. Spend a few minutes of open discussion regarding the group’s observations.
4. Schedule a meeting in the near future to further examine and/or develop focus and effort alignment.

Focus is critical. If our focus is to be in Salt Lake City, we make that determination and then choose the roads that will get us there. If we do not have a focus, we merely wander.

We get what we put our efforts on. Generally, the weakest evaluation of our direction, is what we say – what we profess – talk is cheap. How we allocate our  money and time paints a more accurate picture of our real direction.

Where is your focus? Is it really where you want to be and what you want to achieve? Where is the focus of your organization? Are your goals and your efforts in line with your focus? Would an outside evaluator conclude that you are moving toward your focus?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bleeding finger communication

Sometimes our communication has dramatic affect, even though it might be ineffective. The bleeding finger is an excellent example.

Steve, my cousin, and I started first grade together. At the end of each school day, we walked home together. One day as school dismissed, I noticed a scratch on my pointer finger – it had a little blood on it. As Steve came out of his class, I raised my pointer finger and said, “look, Steve, blood!” I was not prepared for Steve’s reaction.

Steve begin to cry. He then ran down the hall and out the door. I followed. When I got outside I could see Steve at the crossing. The crossing guard was examining Steve’s head. By the time I got to  the crossing, Steve had already started for home. I hurried after.

When I arrived at Steve’s home, I went in and found his mother examining Steve’s head. Steve was still crying. What had happened? As you have probably already surmised, Steve thought I was pointing to his head when I said blood. He thought his head was bleeding.

How good was my communication to Steve? Was it effective communication?

Steve’s reaction probably would not have been any greater had he actually had a bleeding head. But, he did not have a bleeding head. Although the communication was impacting, it was not the message I was trying to convey. It was pretty ineffective communication.

What can we learn?

First, remember that effective communication is measured by how well the message sent is the one received. Regardless of the method used – visuals, pictures, diagrams, examples, looks, expressions, written content, etc. – the only valid evaluation of communication is the fidelity of the message sent to the message received.

Second, be aware of how easy it is to be misunderstood, and do everything possible to ensure the message you send is clear. For example, if I would have just said to Steve, “Look Steve, I have a cut,” the misunderstanding would not have happened.

[This story and many similar discussion are found in The Wrong Bottom Line and How to Change It

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The invisible man

Perception is very important in successful conflict resolution. That brings up the story of my invisible experience.

There was a topic of high interest in the community. A forum was set to discuss it. Since I had considerable experience with the topic, I was asked to represent one side of the issue. I spent time thinking through the concern, doing a little extra research, and developing a list of questions and appropriate answers. I was ready – or so I thought.

The night came. I was first up and made a short presentation. However, as I was doing so, I noticed a very strange thing. Although their eyes were opened, it appeared that everyone was asleep. Throughout my presentation, it was as if I were invisible. No one questioned my presentation. No one asked for further information. No one even argued with my position.

When the individual representing the other side began, it was as if someone had snapped their fingers and awakened the crowd. It was not because he was a local; he was an outsider. I was the local. Was it because he was so much more dynamic or made a better presentation?

According to the leader who apologized to me after, this crowd had already made up their minds and had brought this outside individual into the community merely to sell their idea. Had I been aware, I would have operated differently.

Dealing effectively with conflict requires an understanding of the perspective of others involved. You  need to know who you are dealing with and what they think.

Here are some suggestions for success:
    First, do as much research on the group as possible.
    Second, at the meeting, start by getting their input – what do they think, what are the issues as they see them?
    Third, do this from a sit-down-with-them approach – don’t be the sage on the stage.

Had I known, I would have had a totally different approach. I would have put away my graphics and dumped my speech. I would have insisted that the other side be first. Then, I would have sat down on a table and started asking them questions. I may not have changed everyone’s mind. However, I would have stimulated some thought and lead them into a better examination of the issue. At the very least, I would not have been invisible.