Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Communication and Leadership

November 1, 2018

“Did you know what you have to do this morning?”

“No, not until you just told me. The only way you hear anything around here is through the grapevine.”

I was sitting quietly in a business lobby and overheard (couldn’t help it) the conversation above. Later there was more of the same type of conversation.

Obviously somewhere in the organization there is a leader whose strength is not communication.

I grew up a fan of the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. Over the past 25 years or so, I’ve grown disenchanted with the NFL. And being a Browns fan, well, need I say more… (Check out Juventus in the Italian Serie A.)

However, the ownership once again turned gold into lead instead of the alchemist’s dream of turning lead into gold.

Seems he hired an offensive coordinator for his head coach. Then he fired both of them because they couldn’t get along together. You can’t fire owners, I guess.

You couldn’t diagram all the communication failures in that scenario.

What is the root cause of this level of failure to communicate?

Ego?

Pride?

Fear of confrontation?

Inability to think through a situation?

Lack of personal organization?

If you catch yourself in any of this, run for help. Now.

The Gentle Art of Asking

February 2, 2018

How about you? Do you feel like you know everything you need to know?

Whether you are in business or ministry or family–do you have all the answers?

Edgar H. Schein writes in his book, “Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling,” that many people would rather fail than admit their dependency on another person.

How about succeeding together?

Try Humble Inquiry. Asking questions implies that someone knows something I don’t–even if they are a subordinate, or younger than I, or from a different background. I must humble myself to ask someone placing myself in a position of learner to someone superior to me in this situation. It is the opposite of what we are taught in our culture which places emphasis on telling.

I’ve talked often about the skills of listening. Often we need to ask questions to elicit something to listen to.

Schein says, “The kind of inquiry I am talking about derives from an attitude of interest and curiosity. It implies a desire to build a relationship.”

We must slow down to ask and then listen.

Again Schein says, “I find that the biggest mistakes I make and the biggest risks I run all result from a mindless hurrying. If I hurry, I do not pay enough attention to what is going on, and that makes mistakes more likely. More importantly, if I hurry, I do not observe new possibilities.”

He points out in our “Do and Tell” culture, the most important thing we need to learn is to reflect. Before doing something, apply Humble Inquiry to yourself. “Ask ourselves: What is going on here? What would be the appropriate thing to do (Wow, there are hundreds of men right now who wish they had asked themselves that question)? On whom am I dependent? Who is dependent upon me?”

In other words, become more mindful.

“The toughest relearning, or new learning, is for leaders to discover their dependence on their subordinates, to embrace Here-and-now Humility, and to build relationships of high trust and valid communication with their subordinates.”

Schein was an MIT professor and business consultant. You can substitute parent for leader and use the ideas in family. Pastor for leader and transform a church.

Read and digest the book. It’s short and not technical. Good read.

The Strength To Engage Wits In A Conversation

June 6, 2017

Don’t get into a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

Do you ever notice how much more powerful and moving a stage play, or even a movie, can be than reading a book? Nuances of the language and conversation can be conveyed in 3D, so to speak.

Sometimes I think we read stories in the Bible and use a “Church” voice. Rather we should often read aloud–with feeling, and maybe six-part harmony.

Take, for example, Jesus’ two conversations with women. People seemed more shocked that he was talking with a woman in public than their race. But one was Canaanite and the other Samaritan.

When we read them, they can sound too dry. Intellectual. I imagine the conversations in full color and noise. I think in both cases, Jesus was engaged in a subtle battle of wits. And in each case, the woman stood up for herself. And in each case there was change. 

The Canaanite women had been a pest. Jesus decided to stop, acknowledge her, and deal with the situation. She stood strong. Her child was healed. 

The Samaritan woman was an outcast due to many bad decisions in her life. I grew up in a small town. I can imagine her shame. She’s alone. That fact alone tells us volumes. This is the social media gathering spot for the women of the town. Catch up on gossip and who has done what to whom. She’s alone. Jesus asks a question. That was shocking. She hardly expected a Jewish man, a teacher even, to speak to her. But she held up during the conversation. Changed her life and the lives of her entire town.

A couple of questions.

How often to you engage someone unexpectedly in a conversation that can move deeper?

Where do you find the strength to respond to such a conversation?

Are We Really Connecting?

May 25, 2017

When you say something to someone, does the message get through?

OK, we already know about kids. How about spouses?

When God says something to you, does that message connect?

I have devoted a good portion of this week learning about a new computer networking standard–a new version of Ethernet–called Time Sensitive Networking. TSN is a hot topic. Perhaps many new people will read my business blog when I write about it.

There are several important new technologies to this standard, and I’ll spare you the gory details. But there is this one–setting a “priority” so that when one device sends a “packet” of data to another, the entire network stops for a nanosecond while that priority packet gets through. It’s like traffic stopping to let an ambulance go by. You have told the network that communication between these devices is a priority and the message must get through.

So, I started contemplating then concept, of course. It’s what I do.

And I thought, when you say something to someone, does their inner dialog network shut down long enough for your message to get throug? Are you being heard?

Or, something you can control–do you intentionally shut down your inner network when someone is talking to you so that you actually receive their message? And in networking, we have what we call data and we have metadata–data about the context of the data. When you listen, do you absorb the entire context? Where they are. What they actually mean. What back story influences the conversation.

Then I thought about prayer.

For many it’s talking to God. Or maybe requesting a package from the Great Vending Machine In The Sky?

Can you shut down your inner networking for a few nanoseconds (or minutes or hours?) to listen for God’s message packet to come through?

Misunderstanding Can Lead To Distress

March 21, 2017

“I swear I don’t know that woman.” Man to wife at restaurant

An attractive woman who knows me stopped and waved Hi to me at the restaurant. Between us was a couple at a table. I waved back. Just a friendly greeting.

But the woman turned to me, “You know her? I saw your arm go up.” Her husband, worried (I guess), had protested innocence.

Cute. But those things happen.

We misunderstand. Make assumptions. Get confused. Make accusations. Become angry.

“Never assume malice¬†if it can be explained by mere stupidity,” said a guy recently.

Someone makes a comment. We misunderstand and blow the whole exchange out of proportion.

We misunderstand a leader and go off and do something counterproductive.

Think of how often Peter, the apostle, misunderstood his teacher. Well, basically all the time. It caused him distress time and again. Especially at the end, when he denied even knowing him.

Between the thought and response is a gap. Do we shorten that gap and say something foolish? Or do we pause in that gap? Take a breath. Thought flashes in that gap–did I understand? Should I ask for clarification.

Between the thought and response lies our future.

Do What You Say; Say What You Mean

December 2, 2016

Did you ever end a phone call where the other person said, “I’ll get right on that and call you back shortly” knowing that there was never going to be a return call?

How about when Jesus was walking somewhere and met 10 individuals with a terrible skin disease? He told them to go show themselves to a priest. That meant that they would be healed of the disease and the priest would give them a certificate of cleanliness. And one of them came back to say thanks. And Jesus said, “Were there not 10 who were healed? Where are the other nine?”

One of them returned to complete the loop with thanks.

I was in my favorite little coffee place this week and recalled that a guy had called me and said he’d see me sometime in the coffee shop for some consulting (for free, of course). But he has never come.

The number of people who have said they would get back to me has numbered in the hundreds in my career in business, church work, and non-profit work.

It’s like an epidemic.

Must be one reason why Jesus said at one point, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.

Do what you say; Say what you mean.

A basic rule for getting along in society. Don’t be the person with the reputation of never following up. Be the person who calls when they say they’ll call, otherwise they tell you frankly that it’ll be a while or that they can’t get to it. Better to say “find someone else” than to leave them waiting.

Do Words Lose Power With Over or Mis-Use

October 24, 2016

I’m in a Hilton this week. Return trip to Austin. There I was ready to take an early shower to get to a 7am breakfast meeting.

I’m staring at these bottles. Mega-what??

I choose words carefully. I also choose words that I hope translate well to an international audience. And I wonder, how do these words impact emotions as well as intellect.

img_3175

Mega-Rich. Mega -Rich.

I stared. Mega-body? No. Mega-rich body. Then I saw it was a brand name. Mega-rich shampoo.

How many things can be “mega”? Really?

How many of us just read over the words. Are we impacted by that word anymore? It’s just a brand or marketing speak or something.

I wonder the same things when communicating Jesus.

Are what I call the “Christian code words” still powerful?¬† When we read “sin” do we understand that to which it refers? Or is it just a negative sounding word that means some old lady or old guy is condemning us–sight unseen?

I try to find new ways of expressing the emotion or action that is meant by some of the code words. I’m well aware of the many Christians who listen to a message or song and sub-consciously count the number of code words. If the number hits a threshold, then it is labeled good.

The latest John Fischer podcast conversation featured songwriter / singer Bob Bennett. He was talking about writing songs to reach people who are not followers of Jesus. But that the music publishing houses wanted songs that met the code-word threshold rather than songs of struggle and overcoming.

Bennett said, “It’s like the man who, at a dinner party, reaches over to cut his neighbor’s meat.”

We need to make sure that we are really communicating. Are we over-using words to the point that they lose their appropriate emotional meaning? Are we failing to use words that say what we really mean in a context that can be really heard?