In Support of Clear, Simple Language

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

I’m not always a good communicator. Things that I think are straight-forward get bungled in the strangest ways sometimes. Part of my world-view comes from growing up in a German-speaking house-hold in Canada. I like to joke that I learned English off the TV. Me sharing this will probably upset my mother (yes my mother reads my blog, hi Mom!), but isn’t too far from the truth. I often had to translate, explain cultural context, or figure out even in my own head what was going on for my parents. You can imagine as a child I didn’t always get this right. It’s a common experience for first generation immigrant children.

      Plus I’m also a bit left-brained, procedural, and rule-following. Again, I joke that with a German father and Swiss mother I had to have my room cleaned up on time. But this isn’t how everyone sees the world, so this also make for “translation” errors. You can imagine the knee-slapping adventures that ensue in a household where my partner and sweetie teaches creative design, my step-son is a professional musician, and his girlfriend is an animator. But they love the project manager me and even find me useful on occasion.

Painting a Picture

“People think people create stories. It’s the other way around.” — Terry Pratchett

 The very best communicators tap our emotions this way. Think of the Churchill’s “we will fight on the beaches“, JFK’s “send a man safely to the moon“, or Martin Luther King’s “I have seen the promised land.” No matter what you think of them as historical figures, it is objectively demonstrable that their ability to tap into clear, simple, evocative language tapped into people’s motivations and affected how people behaved.

The Science

Why does the brain like pictures so much? We express our feelings or make decisions with words all the time, don’t we? Maybe not.

Depending on how you measure it, 30 percent of the brain is used or involved in visual processing (with 8 percent for touch and 4 percent for sound). The brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 9/10ths of the information the brain receives is visual.

In his seminal TED talk Simon Sinek talks about the golden circle (“How Great Leaders Inspire Action”) and how this golden circle corresponds to different parts of the brain. The newest parts of our evolved homo sapiens brain, the outer layer called the neocortex, is responsible for all our rational, analytical thought, and language.

Great leaders seek to motivate. They appeal to the emotional, the visual. This corresponds our limbic brains. Our limbic brains, in the centre and the oldest parts of our brains evolutionarily speaking, are responsible for all our feelings, emotions, and decision making. Our limbic brains have no capacity for language.

The part of us that makes decisions doesn’t use words.

In Practice

The U.S. Army defines leadership as “…the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation….” You’ll probably notice that two if not all three of these factors are influences applied to peoples emotions, feelings, or even values and beliefs. Getting people to make the right decisions, act in a positive way, and commit to a particular outcome or goal (for whatever definition or “right”or “positive” you care to define) means making an appeal to their motivations.

The Army leadership manual goes on to talk about such airy-fairy leadership responsibilities such as developing future leaders, fostering trust, open communications, and earning respect.

So, providing clear, simple language means more than just using small words. It means understanding others’ motivations and applying influence. It means painting a picture of what the future looks like and why they should care. It means providing direction and purpose that appeals to people’s need to be part of something greater than themselves.

Clear communication means doing the work to be clear.

How about you?

What’s the worst miscommunication you ever had? How do you make sure you’re saying the same thing the listener is hearing? How well do you pay attention to other’s motivations?

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It’s Not Them, It’s You

Leaders are meant to lead change, and yet getting people to change their behaviour seems near impossible. How many times have you felt “If only *they* did what they were supposed to.” when faced with a peer or subordinate that wasn’t doing what you expected (or a child, or a spouse)?

Maybe it’s not them, maybe it’s you. Even if it isn’t you, if their behaviour or performance isn’t changing the way it needs to, maybe you need to change yours. After all, isn’t a definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results?

Open Offices are Evil

I’m afraid I have to agree with the Washington Post. Not because I have anything against them, nor Google, but having worked in both open, semi-private, and private offices I have to agree: open floor plan offices are counter-productive. What you gain in reduced operations costs and floor space efficiency, you lose in individual productivity.

This is not new. It goes back to a book I read in university, a very long time ago now: The Mythical Man Month. One of the insights I took away was the demonstrable pattern of the best programmers at the best companies are 100x more productive than the worst programmer at the worst companies. The difference between companies: can you close your door and silence your phone?

That simple. A 10-second interruption costs you 20 minutes (give or take) of think time. In cognitively challenging work (programming, engineering, creative endeavours, writing, and other brain jobs) every interruption means starting over again.

So if you ever wonder why you can spend the entire day at work, and come home feeling tired and wondering what you actually got done, maybe you should work from somewhere else once in a while. I used to book a small meeting room on the other side of the building so nobody would want to come find me unless they absolutely had to. Not to hide, but to get work done. Try it some time. Let me know how it works for you.

Time Management: the Next Big Time Waster?

“Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days.”

— Oliver Burkeman, “Why Time Management is Ruining Our Lives“, The Guardian

(Thanks Tim for the link)

10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation (and be a Better Listener)

“There is no reason to learn how to show you’re paying attention if you are in fact paying attention.“

 

John’s 2016 Business Trends

John’s a cool cat with his ears open. His biggest business trends from 2016 is right. I will say I don’t think anything on this list is new except the technology sea change that’s going on around us. Leadership, talent, sales, communication challenges have always and will always be with us. But if you think the last 20 years of having an internet and email around has made your head spin then you might want to sit down. That was just the warm-up and it’s happening now.

http://blog.johnspence.com/2016/12/big-trends-2016/

Happy New Year

I’ll be dancing tonight, but if this song comes on I’ll be laughing and singing along.

This goes out to all the smart, determined women I know who have ever been told they should be “less abrasive”.

Bitch In Charge
Bitch In Charge

The Top Three Mistakes Good Managers Make

We are problem solvers. That is how we become managers / leaders. But that’s not always the right response when you’re the manager

Blanchard LeaderChat

Word "Good" jigsaw puzzle pieces isolated on whiteWhat are the biggest mistakes good managers make? That’s the question I asked 130 of our Blanchard executive coaches for an article I was working on.

Because many of the coaches at first didn’t notice the distinction of good managers, I got a lot of responses about managers who put themselves first, who are inconsistent, or who simply don’t take the time necessary to be clear about expectations. The narcissists, the bullies, the lazy, the petty, the dictators, the volatile, the jerks—we’ve all had at least one boss that fits the bill there. These are the people who become horror stories at the dinner table and who cause stress-related illness in others.

But these were not the people I wanted to write about. There is already a great deal of literature about terrible bosses.

I was focused on the mistakes good managers make. The person who works as hard…

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Explore, Dream, Discover…

Changes I Need

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Do not fear the risk, the failure or the peoples’ opinion. Your dreams are your own. Make them come true.

R.N

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No Excuse……..

Some things may be out of our control. How we react to them is not…

Changes I Need

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Don’t blame your failures on others. You are solely responsible for everything that happens with you – success or failure.

R.N

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