Communication happens in the recipient.

If there is no recipient, it is not communication. It is called noise, or as the Irish say: “shouting at the storm”.

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Communication can only begin when you understand what the recipient wants, what their goals are, what is missing in their current way of life.  If you don’t know the recipient, you are probably making noise.

Improve your communications by changing your question to answer ratio.  Ask more of these questions:

  • “What is already working well?”
  • “What is not working so well?”
  • “What would you change?”
  • “What objectives do you have?”
  • “What will show you that you have been successful?”
  • “What do you really want to achieve?”

If you don’t know the answers to these questions for each recipient, you are probably making noise rather than communicating.

Moving from Noise to Communication

If your noise is not helping the recipient achieve something in line with their actual values, then they are politely making noises and gestures so that they are not seen as rude – but they will not change because of your noise.

If your communication is entirely concerned with what you want, then it is definitely noise.


 

What I need from you:

I don’t know if this blog is noise or communication.  I would like to know more about you: What do you like about this blog?  What is not working so well?  What would you change?  What objectives do you have that I could write more about?  I would love if you would take a minute and leave a comment today.  The comments section is here (if you are reading via rss, email, newsletter).

 

Devdutt Pattanaik tells TEDx that if you know the patterns that you are looking for, India’s apparent chaos is actually order.

  • The mythology of the West: kill the chaos-creating dragon, create order
  • The mythology of India: liberate yourself from boundaries

A beautiful western garden is ordered.  Weeds are weeds, trees are trees and flowers are in their rightful place.  But who says a weed is a weed?  It is the pattern of the gardener.  It is not the pattern of nature.  It is imposition of a western gardener’s view on the nature.  The imposition of boundaries.

A western meal has starter, main course, dessert.  They are clearly separated.  The chef and the restaurant impose their boundaries on the food.

In India, the aim is to liberate from forced boundaries.  An Indian road does not have fixed lanes – but there is an order arising in the apparent chaos.  An Indian meal does not have clear distinction between starter, main, dessert – but there is an order in the apparent chaos.

Here is Devdutt Pattanaik speaking at TEDx (video here on the blog):

When I teach with Maty Tchey, she teaches those who wish to communicate powerfully to “think complex, speak simple”. She challenges speakers to find metaphors that allow the audience to see new material as an extension of what they already know.

What existing and understood patterns can you show the audience to connect them to new material?

There is a power tool in negotiation.  I would say this is the single most useful tactic that I use in my years of selling (I sell private jets among other high value products).

It is not competitive, it is not aggressive, it is not avoiding anything.

It does not require massive intellectual development, years of training or genetic gifts.

It requires no study, no poetic ability nor any magical secret ingredients.

It is …

 

Silence.

Silence.

Me: “What is your best price?”

Supplier: “Blah, blah [Product feature #2], blah… I can offer you €100”

Me: “Hmmm.” and wait…  10…  20 seconds…  (tension increasing)

Supplier: “Ok, I can give you €90…  but that is our best price”

Me:  “Hmmm.”  and wait…  10… 20 seconds… (tension increasing)

… and on…

I was teaching a seminar recently and a young film producer told me “I am not a good manager”.  I asked him why he believed this.  He described a recent series of disasters that he had overseen with his team.

I asked him “who are the people on your team?”.

He said his cousin helped out with finances and his uncle was helping out on sales.

I suggested that his problem had nothing to do with management or leadership skills.  It was a HR challenge.  This reminded me of this video I recorded on “The 5 Styles of Managing People”:

Leading people

It’s important to adapt your leading style to each individual and actually it goes more detailed than that it is down to each major task that each individual has so that may be that one person in order to produce the weekly
status report they don’t need any supervision at all you can delegate it fully to them, but in creating a marketing plan for the department its something that they hadn’t done before and they’re going to need a lot more “hands-on” management.

As you think about managing people it comes down to individuals and the tasks assigned to them. With each
task that you assign to an individual: what is important to think about are two things:

  • the motivation to take on this challenge and,
  • the experience they have in doing this sort of thing

Motivation: 0, 1 or 2

What i would ask is that you think about for each individual motivation on a scale: zero, one or two

Zero: is they are not motivated. Someone with motivation zero: they really aren’t interested in doing this task perhaps with a particular employee they don’t want to be the one that creates the status report for the weekly team meeting, or you’ve asked them to do a planned visit and write up a report on how things are going and they are really not motivated by that they prefer some other aspect, perhaps the technology is something that turns them on.

So zero is that individual is not motivated by this task. One is there is some motivation there it’s not that they are jumping up and down its not that they are asking you “please please can I do this?” but, there is a desire to grow and two: is that you can see fire in their eyes. They really want to do this, perhaps it’s an area that they really want to develop for their future perhaps its a type of work they really love.

In my case i remember when I first started at Accenture, programming computers was something you didn’t need to manage me to do. I loved doing it. I would do it in my spare time, at the weekends. So, my manager looking at me while he hands me a programming task would see me light up and and be excited almost have to hold me in the room to explain the full project before I could go out and start playing with the computers. Because in my mind it was playing that i was doing when I was programming if that same manager had said “on friday, instead of programming i want you to spend the day with the accounts receivable team drawing a process map of how they conduct the process” – that fire would have gone out of my eyes because it was not something that really motivated me.

So with each task and each employee: it’s important to just think about what level of motivation they have to get this activity done and the same for experience and again we have a zero, one, two scale.

Experience: 0, 1 or 2

Someone who has done many years of this, perhaps someone on your team has been creating the minutes for the team meeting for a couple of years they do it well: their experience is two. They’ve got three or four years of experience doing it, they’ve got the template, they know what goes in there, they know what doesn’t go into there they don’t need to ask for help.

Maybe there’s someone has just started on the team, they’ve never created minutes and they don’t know what it quite looks like: their experience is zero.

Maybe there is someone on your team that for a programming task they really haven’t got a background in this, they don’t know the language or they have not programmed in this particular language before so their experience is zero or one or two. So you need to think through…

What’s what’s this skill level of this person how much experience are they bringing to get to this particular activity and you score for each activity and each person:

  • where they are on motivation: zero, 1 or 2
  • where they are on experience: zero, 1 or 2

This will give you some basis, so perhaps you have someone who is zero and zero…

The Leaders Window: Management Matrix

Lets move that onto our our management matrix: so you have taken a particular task and an employee… and and you have done the sums, and you have looked at how their motivation is to do this particular task, how their experience is to do this particular task and maybe the sum of motivation and experience is zero:

You decide this person is not motivated by this particular task. They have got no experience: zero plus zero leads to zero.

Motivation + Experience: Zero

When you are faced with an individual on your team that is not motivated and that does not have previous experience there’s nothing you can do as a manager to get them to do this well. So, a zero is a HR problem

A zero: there is no management that you can do to get good work out of this individual. It’s a waste of time giving this piece of the activity to that individual employee. So your best decision, if this is a very important piece of work for the team, is to give it to someone else and if you don’t have someone else to do it
you need to replace this individual on the team because there’s no short or long term solution under which
someone who is not motivated and doesn’t have a good level of experience is going to be able to contribute anything worthwhile to the team so if it zero for motivation and zero for experience you need to find someone else to do this work.

Motivation + Experience: One

Let’s say they’ve got a little bit of motivation but no previous experience; or the other case
they’re not really motivated but they’ve been doing it for long enough that they can do it fairly simply
the case of producing minutes from a team meeting the individual is not motivated but they know generally what it looks like which case you’ve got a one as the sum.

In the case of “1” we move to micro-management in the case of micromanagement you’re going to have to supervise quite closely you going to have to set the activity weekly set the timing and describe how you want it done and audit and look over it anyone who’s in this “1” level whether it’s because their experiences is zero or their motivation is zero it is going to be hard work.

Micro-Management is not something you have an enormous scope to be able to to do much of. So the only reason you will allow someone to be in this micro management level is because either some things is going to change or you can see a path for them either to be more motivated or to gain the experience to be able to do it unsupervised.

Your objective is to move people away from micro-management and move them to level “2”, so level “2” is perhaps there’s a little bit of motivation, a 1 score in motivation and a little bit of past experience: so
one and one gives you two maybe its someone who is young who hasn’t done this before, but is very, very motivated to learn so their motivation is 2 but their experience is zero or somebody who’s not very motivated but they’ve been doing this for a long time and have a great deal of experience and know how to get it done, in which case your score is 2 and that 2 an activity, and an individual with a score of 2: you can Manage.

Motivation + Experience: Two

In the case of Manage, you are delegating the “how” to them so the individual it’s up to them them to decide how they want to do it but you keep control of the when and the what. So its the status report: “I want it 10 minutes before the team meeting on friday”, “I want it to look more or less like what we have always had”, “It’s up to you when and how do you do it”.

Or marketing plan, you set the when: “its due in two weeks time” the what: its a market plan. I’d like it to look to looks somewhat like the template we did last time but you leave it up to them to come to you with the how. but you are available for helping with the how, but that is delegated to them.

In the case of management you’re still keeping control of what is being done, you’re still keeping control of the deadline but you’re passing over the day-to-day work on the project to the individual and again this with the accountability question needs to be reinforced each time they come to you you’re pushing back the problem to
them:

  • “what else do we need to do?”
  • “what other things could be done?”
  • “what do you need to get it done?”

Anyone that you are managing: you really want to be looking at how you can move them to to level 3. Because level 3 is where you can lead. The key here at the management level, and at the micro-management level; this side of this quadrant you have a scarce amount of energy and time to dedicate here once you move your employees, the people reporting to you over into the style of leadership of “leading” or fully delegating; you can start to have many, many more people on your team because they’re not sucking a scarce resource that you have in terms of energy, in terms of time.

Motivation + Experience: Three

Leading: if you look at a task, and this task + person: they are highly motivated, they are really motivated to learn, and there’s a little bit of experience so you have given them 2 on the motivation, given them 1 in terms of experience: “3”, you’re leading.

In the case of leading, you are handing over even more responsibility, you are delegating the “what”, you are delegating the “when” you are delegating the “how” over to the individual and you are being there just to
to make sure that they are being supported to remove obstacles and help them be successful so, you’re role is no longer manager but moving more to coach and pushing the ownership of all of the task over to the individual
and if you’ve got an activity where someone is fully motivated: motivation level 2 and they’ve got plenty of experience: experience level 2 you start to get to 4.

With 4 you can delegate and ideally you want to move everyone into this phase: into delegation

Motivation + Experience: Four

You are now handing over full control, and you’re trusting, you’re trusting and doing some regular verification.

The important thing in delegation: the difference between an employee, a team member feeling that they’ve received something delegated to them, or the negative, they have received it dumped onto them it is a very different feeling as a team member to have something dumped on to you.

The big difference between dumping and delegation: in delegation you tell the individual:

  • “I have specifically chosen you”
  • “I trust you to do it”
  • “I am here if you need anything”
  • “I know you could do it better than I can do it”

You need to come back regularly with praise. Let them know you are aware they’re working on it. Let them know that you think they’re doing a good job. Dumping is a very horrible feeling. It feels like someone has just
passed, thrown the work over at them because you don’t want to do it yourself.

Having something dumped on you is a very un-healthy feeling.  Having something delegated to you and someone look you in the eyes and say

  • “I have specifically chosen you”
  • “you can do this better that I can”
  • “I trust you to come to me if you hit an obstacle”
  • “if you need some support to think through the problems”
  • “I trust you to get it done”
  • “I am not going to follow up, I am not going to check up”
  • “This is yours to get done”

When you get your team into leading and delegating as the main styles that your working with them as the team lead you now are freeing up your time to really look ahead you are not stuck in the details of day to day
and you are going to be able to start to look ahead and create time really make those that work for you successful.

Freeing up time for the Future

The real job of a leader, a great leader, is someone that everyone underneath them is even more successful than they are without you as the leader that can only happen when you start to move most of the activity that is being done by your team into these modes of leading and and delegating, and giving you the time and the energy to look up to see the roadblocks, remove the obstacles, praise, and reward and really boost the team into a high performance team so these are some important things to think about as you are giving the work to each member of the team and each activity, and each individual team member will need a different style in terms of how you relate to them how you help them take responsibility for their work.

The objective is always to be moving people out of micro-management into management; out of management into a style of leading and as soon as possible moving them from leading to a style where you can delegate.

Delegation can only happen when the individual team member is motivated and they have enough experience to know more or less how to get the job done so your job as a leader is to make working on their motivation and on working on giving them the skills so that they can be a 2+2 person; giving them a “4”, keeping them in the delegate box

if you can achieve that: you’re going to be really successful as a team leader.

Have you ever harboured ambitions of a role in TV news broadcast?  Learn the ropes in 2 minutes with Charlie Brooker.

Structure Always Matters

This video is a joke (yes).  However, anyone who has attended my communication courses has learnt the importance of good speech structure.  It allows your message to reach the audience in a form that they can digest.  This news broadcast structure works – partly because it is what the news programs have taught us to expect – but doesn’t matter.   Don’t re-invent the wheel.

More about the BBC programme Newswipe: “Charlie Brooker’s How to Report the News – Newswipe – BBC Four”.

I was watching the UK version of the TV show “The Apprentice” a few months ago.  This particular week’s challenge was to sell caravan and camping equipment at a trade show.

Early on, there was a key decision to make: Which model of caravan would the team try to sell?

Now, this was a trade show where the typical attendee was 60 years old and the teams had this information.  This was not a show directed to young people, nor was it an audience that would be represented by the word “innovative”.  This was people looking for solid, reliable caravans.

The contestants on BBC's The Apprentice show
The contestants on BBC’s The Apprentice show

The team lead, lets call him Joe, asked for advice from one of his team members, who I will call Tom.  Now, Joe has already agreed with the rest of the team that they should choose a proven, well-priced model…

Joe: “So, Tom, what do you think? Should we go for the hip, modern campervan or the older, proven model?”

Tom: “I think we should go for the modern one.”  (I am surprised at this advice)

Joe: “Really?  I like it a lot more…  but… are you sure it is right for this market?”

Tom: “I think we can manage it.”

Joe: “Right, ok…  I’ll go with your advice.”

Skip forward to the end of the week…  Joe is in the boardroom defending why his team did so incredibly poorly.  It was clearly because he chose a caravan that would be impossible to sell to the actual audience of the trade show.

Tom was playing the game supremely.  He was being friendly to Joe and acting the part of a loyal team member, whilst really setting Joe up for a fall.

We see the Manipulators for what they are

In real life this happens all the time, but it is very hard to see – because the manipulators like Tom are very good at the act, and we only see how they deal with us.  We don’t see or hear what they are saying to others behind our backs.

Modern western society forces a dilemma onto its citizens: How do I maintain a good balance between good, long-term, trusting relationships and individual achievement.  The achievement often has to come by me winning and another person losing.

Machiavelli first put down the principles of individual achievement over trusted relationships back in 1500s in his book The Prince.

TV Series such as The Apprentice, Survivor and Big Brother are exquisitely designed and edited to open a clear window for the viewers into the scheming, manipulative words and actions of the competitors.  They can often go for weeks believing that Tom is a wonderful friend in the house, whilst the audience has known for weeks that Tom is playing the true friend to several others and manipulating the whole house.

It is addictive watching.

I think it is addictive, because deep down we all know the game.

Good ideas sometimes die.  Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk
Good ideas sometimes die. Photo: Thomas Hawk

A person can have the great idea, but if that person cannot convince a number of people: the idea dies.

Good ideas do die.  Good ideas must have good advocates.  Good advocacy and good idea makes an idea live.

Ideas need advocates like humans need oxygen.

The Leader as Communicator

The Leader’s #1 job as a communicator: to discover why people believe the things they do.

Wife says “I don’t like this type of movie.” Husband says “Yes you do.”  Wife learns: he is an idiot.

Wife says “I don’t like this type of movie.” Husband says “I understand you don’t like this type of movie.  What type of movies do you like?  What do they have in common?  What do you feel when you see those movies?  What do you feel when you watch this movie?”.  Wife shares.  Husband learns.

Proving to somebody that they are wrong is not going to lead them to say “thank you for helping me identify the error of my ways”.  Proving to someone that they were lazy is not going to lead them to take decisive action.  Proving to someone that they were stupid is not going to lead them to score well on the exam or do a great job on the report.

“Why does this person think he is right?”

The most important question: Why does this person think he is right?

Everyone who states a position, takes an action – believes that it serves a positive purpose, whether conscious or unconsciously.  Everyone has good reasons. Your job is to uncover their reasons.  You may not see them as good reasons, but they are reason enough for that other person.  You can only help them change if you start from where they start.

Your Question to keep Ideas Alive

Positions are the what. Interests are the why.  If someone resists: Why do they hold this position?  What benefit are they getting emotionally, strategically, personally, financially that makes them want to hold this position?

Find a way to show that the new idea can give them the same or more benefit.

Don’t try to prove them wrong.

 

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Teaching in IESE

The purpose of giving a speech is to give the audience something valuable to them.

If I open most of the books on communicating well that I have on my bookshelf, they will tell me that step one is to know my audience.  How do we achieve this?

How to do Audience Analysis

First, you must know who the audience are and what they need:

What does it take to know my audience?

  • Demographics“Who am I speaking to?”  What is the age and gender of your audience? Education level? What does your audience value? What are their interests? Are you addressing a specific group of people?  Can you be more specific about the group you’ve selected? For example, rather than all business people, should you focus on entrepreneurs? Rather than all entrepreneurs, should you focus on internet entrepreneurs?
  • Context“What do they care about?”  What does your audience know about the topic? How much background will they need in order to understand your topic? Do you need to explain jargon or define terms? Does your audience have a bias about the topic that you will need to address? For example, are you presenting ? If so, keep in mind the audience’s probable biases. Could your audience have any other assumptions about the topic?

Advanced Audience Analysis

  • Identify the group within the group – Who really takes the decisions here?  There is always an “interpretive community” – a smaller group that the rest look to as opinion setters, as decision makers. If they move to action, the rest of the audience will move to action.
  • Understand their Discourse Conventions – Discourse Conventions are shorthand language what is assumed by the audience as a group? In my MBA classes, I can say “we conduct an ABP process” and the group of MBAs knows exactly what I mean, and they know that I am part of their inner group.  Use of this “insider” language creates a stronger connection, but at risk of alienating any “outsiders” present.

How to Prepare your Communication

Adult conversation is about leaving behind what I want to say, and beginning to communicate what they need to hear. This is a challenge. This involves good control of your emotional state. When I complain, I want to speak about how angry I am, how let down I feel. What the audience needs to hear is what they can do, what specifically happened, what we can learn.

  1. “How does my material relate to a challenge, opportunity or need in their lives?”  (W.I.I.F.M.)
  2. “When I am finished speaking, my audience will ___[insert ACTION]__”? (The Point X)
  3. “What do I want them to know, believe, and feel in order to take action #2?”
  4. “What do they already know, believe and feel about the subject?”

Adapting your Speech

  • Develop a way to bond with the audience from the very beginning. “10 years ago I was sat where you are sat today” “I am not a Toastmaster, but I have many friends who are Toastmasters and they told me that the 3 most important things for a Toastmaster audience are…”
  • Target a particular audience group Determine the specific group in the audience will most benefit from your message and speak directly to them.
  • Talk to your audience, not at them. Although not everyone can be specifically targeted, if the speech is presented with the audience in mind, they will feel a more personal connection and be more likely to remember the presentation.
  • Change your vocabulary. If your audience has little knowledge of your topic, define basic terms for them to understand. If your audience is well versed in the topic, feel free to go in depth with the issue and skip the definitions. The first group will not feel bombarded with information, and the latter will not feel that the topic has been oversimplified.
  • Make enough physical adjustments to suit the audience. This can be anything from changing where you stand to ensure the best visibility, speaking loudly and clearly for those sitting far in the back, and making sure that your visual aids are clear and effective for all.

Any Questions? Ideas? Reflections? Success Stories?

I so loved the title of Brad Feld’s post, that I just had to copy the title.

This is an important one.  We live in a world of personal branding, quick online reputation checks and a lot of noise.  Authors, Entrepreneurs and job seekers get less and less time to explain themselves.

This morning I was listening to Guy Kawasaki pitch his new book “APE” in a webinar on publishing.  He talked about the challenge of an author.  “Nobody walks into the bookstore thinking I am here to make Guy Kawasaki a little bit richer.  He walks in with a problem that he wants to solve.  His problem.”

The mentality of someone walking into a bookstore and browsing, and the mentality of an investor share a lot of similarities.  They have their own agenda.  Either you show you can help that agenda very quickly, or there are 20,000 other books in the bookshop that will get their attention.

If You Can’t Explain what You do in a Paragraph, You’ve Got a Problem

Gimme some Attention!!

I love the energy of entrepreneurs.  I spend a lot of time involved in activities in Barcelona.  I love the entrepreneurial energy. It is great to see people and institutions coming together to build the supporting community.  We need to get better at connecting 1) the people with the resources with 2) the people with the ideas with 3) the people who can execute these ideas.

If you approach me at a networking event and say “I’d like to talk to you about my business.”  I’ll say “Great.”  Then I will ask “What problem do you solve?”

This is the point at which 85% lose my attention.  They try to steer the conversation to describing the technology, or give a generic statement that uses either the word “platform” or “solution”.

I don’t want to hear about what language you are coding in.  I don’t really care about which font you have chosen for your book.  I don’t care when you started.

The 3 Ingredients of What We Do

Brad Feld says the “What We Do” Paragraph should be three sentences: (1) what we do, (2) who we do it to, and (3) why you should care. Sometimes this can be two sentences; sometimes four, but never more than a paragraph.

I believe the major risk of early stage startups is getting customers to buy, and showing that you can sell.  The words “platform” or “solution” are indicative of an entrepreneur who has not spent much time with real or potential customers.

What’s your paragraph?

Photo Credit: saikiishiki via Compfight cc

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How do I become a better listener? Become aware of what level you are listening at.

There are 5 levels of listening:

  1. not listening
  2. hearing the noise, waiting for silence
  3. hearing the words, preparing my response
  4. hearing the meaning from my point of view
  5. hearing the emotion, meaning and point of view of the other person.

Level 5 requires complete attention and is very tiring. It is not necessary that you always listen at this level.

There are times my daughter is talking and she just needs to know that I am here in the room with her. There are other moments when she is sharing something important that has happened and will benefit from level 5 listening.

It is too tiring to always listen at level 5.