Communication: Where to Find the Meaning

"We see things not as they are, but as we are."
   --H.M Tomlinson

Meaning is in the Response You Get

We often deal with new ideas, with changing how things are done, with trying to persuade others about our point of view. The longer you've lived, the more you realize the number of obstacles to people automatically accepting and absorbing your information.

Maybe the greatest single stumbling block to real communication is the one-sided nature of speaking.

I know that you already know about this: intellectually. But let's face it:  Most of us concentrate on what to say and how to say it. In our zeal to  get our message across we forget that at the other end of our message is a real, live person with her own zeal, goals, and concerns. These may not coincide with ours, especially at the moment when we are about to start communicating our new ideas.

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So, Do This:

1. Openly acknowledge the areas of similarity first.

2. Re-state why you are together and what you hope to accomplish.

3. List the areas of disagreement or fuzziness. Don't discuss them yet, just list them.

4. Identify and work through the items that have the least value or emotional attachment. This creates a quick track record of successes.

5. Get to the tougher ones, with this important element:

Explain why it is important to you.

It's a lot easier to work together when you understand the deeper issues involved. Without this, you aren't really operating at a human level--you are just exchanging information whose underlying realities may be much more sympatico and understandable than the statement given on the surface.

Remember: Meaning is in the response. The deeper, more honest the response, the more chance you have of understanding the truth of each other's reality.

How do you approach these kinds of situations?

Beware of Feedback In Disguise

Faux Feedback Disguised as 360 Assessment

About 8 months ago I was asked to provide coaching for a middle manager. During the exploratory meeting, I asked his boss how he (the middle manager) responded to the performance feedback that led to the coaching solution. The boss responded in a very generic way and shuffled papers nervously. Then, he said it: "I guess I should sit down with him again. But I think using some kind of 360 feedback tool would really be helpful."

Three weeks ago...yep, it happened again. Along with the "360 might be helpful..."

These are three different companies in three different industries with three different cultures.

Hippies_use_back_door My intuitive take: 360 Tools are seen by some as a way to satisfy the desired and useful need for feedback but to avoid having to provide it directly. So, they decide to enter through the back door.

If the object of feedback were only to provide raw data, maybe that wouldn't matter. However:

Employees at all levels want feedback and direction first and foremost from their boss. That's the relationship workers at all levels rely upon when making decisions about what to do and how to do it 

Deal With Back-Door Feedback Through Front-Door Coaching

If you're a coach, then I will assume you adhere to this principle: You don't give feedback to a coaching client that he or she hasn't received from their boss. Period.

What to do?

I explained to each boss that I couldn't continue until their person had gotten all of the "what" and "why" feedback from them; otherwise, the the coaching would be (rightly) viewed as sneaky and unethical. And, that without the boss's direct contribution, it probably wouldn't have any real meaning.

The result? Each one actually agreed. This wasn't about an evil empire. It was about people who needed some help themselves.

So the first coaching session was with the boss to identify the specific feedback and practice giving it. And yes, we still did the 360 feedback because it really was desired by the people being coached.

What to take away: Be on the lookout for back door feedback requests and, regardless of your role, point people toward the front door before proceeding.


On The Air: Crack the Leadership Code

Enjoyed good interview by Dr Michelle Pizer; had a chance to discuss leadership and its available today on Crack the Leadership Code. Register FREE! @steveroesler

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Nobody Follows A Tentative Person

I was standing at the meat counter at the local market and watched a leadership principle unfold before me: Nobody Follows a Tentative Person.

Normally, they have little slips of paper with numbers that make the process run smoothly: take your number and wait for it to be called. But they ran out of numbers. Which meant we had to figure out for ourselves who was next.

The nice part: people were concerned about not "butting" ahead.Meatcounter

The bad part: as a result, when the butcher yelled, "Next", there was a lot of shuffling, faux self-deprecation, and confusion. No meat was moving out of the display case.

Finally, someone said strongly, "I believe I am next" and, at the same time. stepped forward right in front of the butcher. Following her move, there was a similar response at the ensuing, "Next!"

The "Aw, Shucks Shuffle"

This struck me as being similar to what we often see in meetings and presentations. In an effort to not want to stand out or seem "pushy", meeting leaders or speakers do the "Aw, Shucks Shuffle".  The result: people in the room wait forever--uncomfortably--to get to the topical meat counter.

It's popular to want to seem like "one of the guys" and do the "we're all equal" thing.

We're not. When you are in front of a room you've been given the responsibility to lead the rest of the group.

So remember: no one follows a tentative person.

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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
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