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Posts tagged ‘Communication’

dictionaries and encyclopedias

Every organization develops its own language and stories over time. It’s “the way we do things around here.” Some have long lists of acronyms.

Scott Berkun observes about his year at, “Every corporation has the same platitudes for the importance of clear communication yet utterly failed to practice it. There was little jargon at Automattic. No “deprioritized action items” or “catalyzing of cross functional objectives.” People wrote plainly, without pretense and with great charm.”

We all want clear communication. Jargon and acronyms are only two of the things that cause miscommunication. Distractions, choice of words, and different cross cultural experiences do too.  Unless the person I’m communicating with can accurately translate what I have said, little or no communication takes place.

Notice the words, jargon, and acronyms you use today. Which could be replaced with a simple, clear phrase?

Meeting of the minds

Berkun, S. (2013). The year without pants: and the future of work. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

Provocative Leadership: Beyond “Best Practices” to “Next Practices”

Here is an excerpt from a longer article:

Have you thrown out your strategic plan yet? If you made one several months ago, I’m willing to guess that you have. The landscape of reality has already changed … . So now what? Here’s a story-poem, “Brief Thoughts on Maps,” to consider:

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who knew a lot about maps
according to which life is on its way somewhere or other,
told us this story from the war
due to which history is on its way somewhere or other:

The young lieutenant of a small Hungarian detachment in the Alps
sent a reconnaissance unit out into the icy wasteland.
It began to snow
immediately, snowed for two days and the unit
did not return. The lieutenant suffered: he had dispatched
his own people to death.

But the third day the unit came back.
Where had they been? How had they made their way?
Yes, they said, we considered ourselves
lost and waited for the end. And then one of us
found a map in his pocket. That calmed us down.
We pitched camp, lasted out the snowstorm and then with the map
we discovered our bearings.
And here we are.

The lieutenant borrowed this remarkable map
and had a good look at it. It was not a map of the Alps
but of the Pyrenees.

Goodbye now. 1

When faced with an unfamiliar situation, the soldiers discovered that “any map” can be useful. Why? A map leads to confidence and action. You take steps forward, re-check the map, learn, make adjustments, and take more steps. As you re-check the map, you look around, surveying the environment. You re-orient to the reality that is. You learn, assess, and consider options. You make decisions about what to try next. You embrace error and uncertainty; yet you still chose to take the next step.

Provocative leadership is not about authority. Provocative leadership is about …

Click here to read more about Provocative Leadership

What are your ideas about “best practices” vs. “next practices?”

Imagining New Maps

1Holub, M. (1977) ‘Brief Thoughts on Maps’, Times Literary Supplement, 4 February 4, p. 118.

Stories we tell – two

We no longer obtain most of our stories from each other. We watch them on screens or listen with earphones. … Films and television teach us that a few people are central to the plot and the rest are marginal. … We would like to be main characters but we have learned that the important stories are happening to other people.
David Loy, from The World is Made of Stories

Stories we tell – one
What’s your experience?

Stories we tell – one

You get older, and you realize there are no answers, just stories. And how we love them.
Garrison Keillor

Idea for reflection – 31
My teacher got rid of my imagination
Stories that resonate

World Cafe

Do what I say – not what I do

If you’re not modeling what you’re teaching,
then you’re teaching something else.
  – Roger Schwarz, The Skilled Facilitator

 Idea for reflection – 29

Communication that clicks

People sit next to each other in a room. If someone says the word “cat”, everyone’s brain circuits dedicated to the knowledge of cats activate – even though there is no cat in the room.

We know that speaking and listening is a mutual activity. Research in Interpersonal Neurobiology has been demonstrating these connections for a decade. But what do we know about more everyday conversations, ones that we might have in a meeting, the break room, or at the dinner table?

We know when we are “clicking” with a person or an audience. And we know when things are falling flat. How can we increase the chances of connecting effectively?

You are invited to read our new short article: “Communication that Clicks

The naked presenter

At first glance, Garr Reynolds’ new book, The naked presenter, is another entry in the “how to deliver presentation” genre. But as I read through the book, I found myself making notes. The notes were not about how to improve my presentations, but about how I approach change management.

As an organization development practitioner, I spend my time working with change management. This morphs through training – to teach something new, facilitation – where knowledge and ideas are exchanged,  and, communication – designed to inform, motivate, and effect behavior change. Reynolds writes about all of this and more. He integrates information from interpersonal neurobiology, personal observation of his surroundings, and jazz musicians.

He does write about making effective presentations and improving public speaking skills. But the most important idea I encountered in the book is that “lessons are everywhere.” It is up to each of us to inquire into everyone and everything we encounter, asking how it impacts who we are and what old and new lessons we take away.

Each of us has many opportunities to connect with others. Knowing who we are and what matters is the foundation. Knowing why we are speaking, along with how and what we are communicating, allows us to build and effect change.

If you like to walk around the neighborhood block backward, seeing the roof lines and landscape from a new perspective, I recommend reading this book and watching for patterns that reach far beyond presentation design.

Meeting of the minds

Flint Hills - Storm at Sunset

I like “clicking” with people in conversations – where it’s almost as if our brains are playing leap-frog. It’s fun being in sync. Now, new research from Uri Hasson of Princeton, highlighted in this month’s Harvard Business Review, demonstrates that successful communication results in a biological “meeting of the minds.”

With speaker and listener connected to functional MRI (fMRI) machines, the researchers demonstrated that the speaker’s brain and listener’s brain scans displayed widespread overlap or mirroring. Using follow-up comprehension assessments, they showed that neural mirroring increased as comprehension increased. When listener’s comprehension was highest, the listener’s brain activity appeared slightly before the speaker’s activity – meaning active listeners were able to anticipate what would be communicated next.

While this study was done without face-to-face communication (the subjects were inside of scanners), the researchers propose that face-to-face communication would create even stronger neural coupling. This due to the fact that mirror neurons discharge both when performing an action and when observing an action. Interestingly, neural coupling does not occur when hearing foreign languages spoken.

Speaking and listening are a shared function of two brains. Since reading these articles, I’ve been reconsidering effective communication. How do we work to intentionally use language patterns and words that are most likely to create neural mirroring and increase comprehension? In an organization or educational setting, how important is an agenda or pre-work for laying a common foundation for enhancing communication?

How does this impact your ideas about communication? What are the practical things that help you to be “in sync” in a conversation?

From the electronic break room

From standing in the break room exchanging stories to the new electronic “break room,” I appreciate staying connected with colleagues. Here is a story from today’s break room experience:

“Guess what happened last night …” said  Marty

“Just tell me!” replied Mary

“One of my friends posted a Facebook update during class. He wrote, ‘Unbelievable! Death by Power Point. It’s one created by the textbook publisher. And, the prof is reading the slides to us. Just print the slides and hand them out. I can read!'”

In unison, “Ugh!”

While a classroom isn’t a TED presentation, it’s difficult for me to imagine that learning happened – not even getting close to integration of information.

Presentation fatigue

Over the weekend, Nancy Duarte wrote an article about presentation fatigue. This follows the news that an officer in Afghanistan had been fired from his post after voicing his frustration with military slide presentations. In the article, she follows her own communication rules, beginning with why this matters:

Why does this matter? Because presentations decide elections, military strategies and multibillion-dollar business deals; they educate our children and they spread the ideas that shape society’s most important goals and directives. … For professionals and citizens in every strata of society, true literacy now includes the ability to communicate effectively through presentations. 

I agree with her assessment. The ability to communicate clearly, tell a compelling story, use visuals that maintain audience attention, and ultimately lead people to a new understanding is essential. Don’t miss her great stories and examples. Then check out my review of Resonate.

Stay tuned, Friesen Group is getting ready to announce a presentation workshop that will take you beyond bullet points.

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