A travelling preacher was making his way through the Iowa countryside, looking for folks that might want to attend his upcoming Christian revival church service. He saw a farmer in the field, working under his tractor. The preacher parked his car and headed over to talk with him.
“I say good man, are you a member of the Christian family”, the preacher asked.
The farmer looked up from underneath the tractor and said, “Sir, the Christian family lives about two miles down the road.”
The farmer did not catch the preacher’s message so he tried again. “No, no brother, I mean are you lost?”
The farmer looked surprised and replied, “No, I don’t think so, I’ve been on this same farm for 30 years.”
The preacher, having lost his patience, shouted, “Brother, what I mean to ask you is, are you ready for the judgement day?”
The farmer paused for a moment and then asked, “Well, when is this judgement day?”
The preacher, now exasperated exclaimed, “Well, I don’t really know… it could be today or it could be tomorrow, it could be any day for that matter!”
The farmer pulled himself out from under the tractor, looked at the preacher and said, “When you know when this judgement day is coming, please let me know as I think my wife would like to go both days.”
Two people, speaking a “common language”, took very different meanings from the same conversation.
How often have we watched people from the same organization, talk to each other in the same language and still take different meanings from the conversation? When we do not take the same meaning from meetings, client visits or strategy discussions, misunderstandings occur, mistrust develops and organizational excellence suffers.
This month’s news2use offers gentle reminders and a set of tactics and tools to ensure that small differences do not become large misunderstandings for you and your business.
“Relevant & pragmatic ideas, tools and insights to play at your best.”
How can you present and lead meetings to accelerate common understanding that leads to acting together in a unified way?
When presenting to others, remember to
-simplify your messages, this helps amplify your meaning
-make the front-end investment (time and effort) to create clear messages
-use images and process visuals to illustrate your point, not explain
-make a statement with your slide subject lines
-pause often, encourage and ask questions to involve your audience
-incorporate stories into your presentation, because stories have a much better shelf life than simply sharing facts
During meetings, consider using
-the opening five minutes so that everyone can share what is important for them to take out of the meeting
-previously established ground rules to hold people accountable, thereby ensuring an effective atmosphere
-a yellow card for everyone, that they are encouraged to raise when something in the meetings is not clear (an abbreviation, decision or action required by the group)
-brief “summary sessions” at the conclusion of each agenda topic
-the last five minutes of the meet to exchange what went well and how the meeting could improve the next time around
When people are confused, you lose them. Make effective and meaningful communication a priority across your business and you will see immediate improvements. Focusing on fundamentals ensure that you can tackle complex conversations that mediocre organizations struggle to solve.
For You & Your Team
The magic (stick) of aligning change
Failing to recognize, act and implement change creates frustration and leads to dissatisfaction. Many, once successful companies, have stumbled and later disappeared because they could not transform themselves and adapt to changing markets, technologies and customer expectations.
In the popular cartoon series Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin (the young boy) says to Hobbes (his toy tiger), “I thrive on change”. Hobbes responds, “You threw a fit this morning because your Mom put less jelly on your toast than yesterday”, to which Calvin retorts, “I thrive on making other people change”.
It is not effective to ask others to change and not change ourselves. People learn by watching what others (leaders) do and pay attention to this more than what someone says. Parents attempt to override this with “Do what I say, not what I do”.
Many of you who have worked with me remember the magic stick experience. Eight to ten people, facing each other in two lines with my very light, two-meter stick balanced on top of everyone’s extended index finger. The objective is to lower the “magic stick” down to the ground, without anyone’s finger coming off the stick. It looks easy, but most of the time the stick goes up, not down. This can go on for a very long time and people are surprised and often frustrated.
People look at someone else in the line and say, “Hey you, lower the stick down, don’t take it up”. Nobody says, “Sorry, it’s me taking it up”.
There are two key lessons in the magic stick experience. One, it looks easier than it really is. Two, it is always easier to look at what someone else is doing or not doing rather than looking at ourselves.
Effective change is like the magic stick experience. Talking about change and looking at others to change is not the same as leading change. Set the example you expect in others. Then the “magic of change” sticks.
For You, Your Team & Your Business
Silent killers of organizational effectiveness
Effective senior leadership is not always about starting something new; often it is about stopping or changing a pattern that leads to unproductive consequences in the organization. As you move to higher and higher leadership levels in your company, you are less likely to get feedback about behaviors, habits or communication patterns that you practice, particularly negative ones.
Review the following silent killers of organizational effectiveness. Which ones relate to your leadership team and which ones relate to you? What kind of improvements and renewed results would result from stopping these non-productive leadership patterns?
Passive Acceptance? Do you see and hear things that go on within your leadership team that aren’t consistent with the standards of excellence or code of conduct that you have set, but you don’t speak up, thinking that it’s someone else’s job or it will go away? If so, you have become a passive accepter non-productive performance.
Promoting your business as a numbers game? Have the numbers become the ultimate “end game” for you and your leadership team? Do you rise and fall on your daily and weekly numbers, losing sight of your company’s mission and purpose?
Dutifully distracted? Does your leadership team resemble a firefighting unit? Is your leadership team reacting instead of actively driving strategic initiatives? Survey the implications this has for people and projects that look to your team for strategic guidance and clarity.
Sailing in your silo? Are you failing to ask other departments and functions how your business unit could work better with them? When was the last time you and your business function invited another function to a working lunch to discuss ideas of how you could collaborate more effectively? Start the example you expect of others.
Play-it-safe-strategy? Are you careful not to hurt your current position? Do you and your leadership colleagues avoid wicked problems? When you spend energy trying not to lose instead of struggling to win, you kill competitiveness in your business.
Uncertain Ownership? Who owns your executive agenda? More importantly, to what degree have you and your senior leadership team colleagues clarified what your executive team agenda is? If there is uncertainty related to your team of leaders’ agenda, it is impossible to have unified ownership of this agenda at the senior level. You can easily see how unclarity can cascade down through the organization.
Introduce and discuss these silent killers in your next leadership team meeting. Do not invest time blaming others, but rather creating team guidelines to work together better, so you can lead together better.
People, Places & Technology
Combination locks always fascinated me, three numbers that you need to land on to open the combination. The difference between opening the lock or not depends on getting it in the right notch or number.
Becoming more effective as a leadership team is often like the combination lock. Teams are often unaware, and surprised about the small things that they can start or stop doing that lead to exciting changes in their business. Some leadership teams fight the exercise of looking at themselves critically, finding other places to place the blame for something that should be happening in their business, but is not.
There are experiences that can help leadership teams get to the right combination. I use lunch ‘n learn exchanges, business review sessions and next level viewpoints to help leadership teams realize how small changes they make lead to significant changes in their business. If you are interested to discover what small differences in your leadership team could lead to big differences, give me a call and we can discuss this.
Successful combinations in your leadership team lead to successful combinations in your business.
Thought for the Day
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”