Posts Tagged ‘communications’

Listening A Hot Topic

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Listening is a topic that’s been getting frequent attention in recent weeks. I suspect the reason is that fewer and fewer people listen closely to anyone or anything anymore. In a 24/7-connected world, more and more people are multitasking nearly all their waking hours. Or, more accurately, they’re attempting to multitask, which studies have shown isn’t, in fact, productive.

In my experience it’s been obvious that people on conference calls are often checking their phones and emails, reviewing papers on their desks, and answering questions from direct reports and co-workers instead of paying attention to the meeting discussion, not to mention participating in it! And some workshop attendees are on their laptops much of the time, purportedly taking notes but often working on their own projects.

Listening–truly listening, by giving someone your undivided attention–is an increasingly rare practice that many seem not to value highly. As a communication consultant whose entire career has focused on written and verbal interaction, this is very disconcerting. If we don’t listen carefully to one another, how we will ever reach learn waht we need to know? How we will ever reach an understanding of what we’re doing, where we’re going, what we need, what we want, etc.

So imagine how pleased I was to see today’s article in The Wall Street Journal that says focused listening is among the behaviors that conveys intelligence to others. Sue Shellenbarger reports that “a lot of people do things that make them look dumb” (such as using big words or looking very serious) when they’re trying to look smart. The people they’re trying to impress read these efforts as trying too hard, so the attempts to look smart actually have the opposite effect.

To look smart, the first thing a person needs to do is this: Put away the phone and look directly at the person you’re speaking to! According to Nora A. Murphy, an associate professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University in L.A. who’s conducted a number of studies on the subject, the other behaviors that convey intelligence are sitting up straight, speaking clearly in “a pleasant voice,” displaying self-confidence, and actually engaging in a conversation. Some of the ways to do that, says Suzanne Bates, chief executive of Bates Communications in Wellesley, Mass., are indicating you understand the person’s point, asking questions and being willing to hear another’s point of view.

Who knows? By actively listening, people may learn more than they ever imagined, all the while seeming more intelligent than ever. So what have you got to lose? Put down that phone, get away from email–and start listening!

The Mystery of Storytelling Revealed

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
Every organization needs a corporate story--and needs to breathe life into it by telling it continuously.

Every organization needs a corporate story–and needs to breathe life into it by telling it continuously.

How can stories be used in organizations? Even though the practice of storytelling has virtually exploded all around the globe in recent years, many people are still puzzled about how to use stories in their communications. After 20 years of leading Corporate Storytelling® workshops, I’m surprised that the practice is still mysterious to so many people.

There is any number of ways that businesses, NGOs and governmental agencies–not to mention people in everyday life–can leverage the power of story. Storytelling is, after all, a communication tool, and communication is central to human interactions. When you need to communicate, there’s often a way to leverage the power of story. Use a story

  • to attract investors, donors and employees
  • to persuade people to a point of view
  • to galvanize support among stakeholders
  • to inspire
  • to inform
  • to build a cohesive team
  • to nurture a culture
  • to teach a lesson
  • to heal
  • to enliven historic events and people
  • to explain the rationale behind a decision
  • to breathe life into a vision
  • keep people focused on a mission
  •  to demonstrate how a product or service improves or even saves lives
  • to explain how a product or services makes everyday activities easier
  • to underscore core values

And, of course, there’s at least one more use for stories that’s familiar to everyone: entertainment. We regularly share amusing stories with friends, family, co-workers and people we encounter in all areas of daily life. Leaders who understand the power of humor recognize that entertainment plays an important role in organizations. They know when to include a lighthearted tale to relieve tension in difficult times and how to incorporate fun stories when it’s time to celebrate.

Our days are filled with opportunities for storytelling. So what are you waiting for? Tell your stories!


CEO Requires Good Grammar

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

At first glance, one CEO’s hiring requirement–excellent grammar, regardless of the job–may seem a bit extreme. But Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, the largest online repair community, and founder of Dozuki, a technical documentation company, makes a good case for his stance.

As one whose ears scream “Ouch!” when I hear or read all-too-common grammatical errors, I understand and sympathize with Wiens’ irritation at improper use of the English language. And after reading his rationale (for starters, he says people who regularly make grammar mistakes (and I would add spelling errors) “look stupid”), I have to agree with the points he makes.

In Wiens’ article on the HBR Blog Network, his reasons for the grammar-centric policy include the following:

  1. those who “write for a living” need to be grammar experts
  2. good grammar establishes credibility, especially in an age centered on online communications
  3. people who don’t pay attention to the details of grammar don’t pay attention to the details of their jobs, either–regardless of their specific responsibilities

He sums up his perspective by saying, “In fact, when it comes to my whole business, details are everything…. All applicants say they’re detail-oriented; I just make my employees prove it.”