All in Communications

If You Do Know, Then Say So

I’ve talked about situations where leaders and managers struggle to say “I don’t know” because of their fear of seeming incompetent or not being “in the know”. It’s an approach that rarely works and, more often than not, breeds frustration and angst, because it goes against the reality that real leaders are human, open and willing to be vulnerable.

On the flip side, we also see situations where perfectly competent individuals - individuals who know their stuff and know the situation at hand - are unwilling to say what they think. They remain quiet even when they know better, even when their expertise, experience and gut are telling them otherwise.

Why does this happen?

Get Used To Criticism

If you’re going to do anything different, you’re going to get criticized.

There’s no shortage of folks willing to offer you advice if you’re thinking about a new venture, a new project or a new position. They’ll range from friends, family as well as business colleagues - well intentioned or otherwise. Some of it you might actively ask for, but a lot of it will be offered to you, at no extra cost.

Be The Guide - Not The Victim

Donald Miller is an author and businessman who helps organizations tell better stories. His message is that, in a business world that’s full of noise and clutter, the only way to cut through is to tell stories and engage your audience - in any type of setting.

One of his key themes is that there are really 4 key roles you can play in any story - hero, villain, guide or victim.

Take Your Power Back

We all like the idea of getting along.

In business relationships specifically, harmony is an essential ingredient in successful, long term relationships. If we have harmony, we have alignment, we have consensus (at least in terms of direction), we have the grounds for collective momentum.

The trick is in making sure that the basis for that harmony is real. Harmony isn’t about happiness, hugs and kisses. It’s often hard to get to, many times requiring debate, disagreement and (periodic) discontent. Achieving real harmony is almost always hard work.

Don't Send Me An Email (Sort Of)

I’m old enough to remember a time when we didn’t have email at work.

If I wanted to communicate something, I’d pick up the phone and call that person, or I’d write them a letter, or I’d set up a meeting (by phone) and head over to their office to chat.

Since then, the advent of email has led to more streamlined and more versatile communications. You can not only share a thought or an idea, but you can have entire streams of back and forth, all fully documented for future reference. For example…

Learn The Script - Then Forget It

In any pitch - whether it’s to make a sale, get a job, get a promotion, or fund an initiative - the story you tell is all-important. It has to inform, educate and (many times) entertain and inspire the audience, so that they ultimately say yes, and agree to whatever your “ask” is.

So how you craft that story is absolutely critical. From the key themes, to the overall flow/structure, to the specific messages/story points, to the facts and anecdotes that illustrate those messages, it’s essential to flesh out all of those elements.

Cater To Who Matters - Not To Everyone Else

I’m reading a book called “Coal Black Mornings” by Brett Anderson, the lead singer and founder of the British band, Suede, which had their heyday in the BritPop era of the 1990s through early 2000s.

(Suede is in my Top Five bands of all time, but while popular in Britain, they’ve been largely ignored in the US. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re absolutely worth checking out - start with the first two albums.)

There’s a passage in the book where he talks about his song writing process, and writes:

Engage And Entertain (Or It's Always Better to Pull Than Push)

The advent of recording technology (from the cassette tape to the VCR to the current digital formats) as well as the ability to access audio-visual entertainment on demand has allowed us to do the one thing that marketers hate:

Skip their ads.

For the most part, you don’t have to sit through a 15, 30 or 60 second ad just to get to the content you’re actually there for. You just hit the forward button and presto! No marketing message, no advertiser trying to sell you something.

When It's Too Soon To Quit...

In my last post, I talked about the thought process we (should) go through when deciding if it’s time to quit what we’re doing.

While there were multiple idea threads that inspired that post, one of them was an article by Mariam Naficy, the Founder and CEO of Minted, an online design marketplace. In that article, Mariam talked about how she raised a small seed round from friends and family and then launched the business, originally intending it to be a lifestyle business. And then:

Everyone Has A Platform (Part 1)

The best thing about technology today is that everyone has a platform.

It doesn’t matter whether our preferred medium is in written, audio or visual form, we have access to all the technology we need to create, publish, broadcast and market our message to anyone, whether they’re in our hometown or all the way across the other side of the globe.

When We Rush To Judgement

The more time you spend on social media, the more you see examples of it.

Someone posts a video excerpt of an altercation, or footage of someone acting a way we don’t agree with, or an article about someone making statements that don’t resonate with what we believe in.

And our tendency, our natural instinct, is to react. To make our judgement. And then to share that judgement with someone else, and someone else, and someone else. Because the emotion of the moment is hard to get past, hard to get over.

Own The Message

Back in my early consulting days, I was asked to give a presentation to a prospective client and was handed a deck to present. My instructions were to go through the material, get comfortable with the content and then do a run-through with the partner with whom I’d be doing the pitch.

The content was right in my sweet spot, so I was pretty comfortable with the key messages that we needed to get across. But some of the material in the deck didn’t sit well with me.

When You’re Sick of Fitting In...

“People want companies and the world around them to align to their values, their goals, their needs, their interests. People want to find where they belong. They’re sick of fitting in.” Chris Brogan

We’re in a very different age from the one I grew up in. Back then, consumer brands exhibited personalities along parameters that were, generally speaking, non-controversial. It was important to offend no-one and “to stand out” was to do so along ‘conventional’ lines (sexy was cool but in a heterosexual way; models were never plus-size; family units started with a man and a woman, etc.).

3 Reasons This Post Will Change Your Life (Disclaimer: It Won't)

Yes, that title is clickbait. (Partially anyway.)

A title that is designed to lure you in and make you read what I’ve written.

Because it promises you salvation (or resolution or clarity or closure) in some form. Because it suggests that that salvation will come from a few discrete steps. Because it suggests that salvation is going to be easy (implicitly anyway).

I’m Not Him

A small portion of the folks who follow me on Twitter think I’m Omar Abdullah, the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. I know this because every so often they’ll Direct Message me with news about developments in Kashmir (usually holding me accountable for it), or they’ll post an article about some Kashmir related issue and tag me along with the Prime Minister of India and other senior South Asian politicians.

It doesn’t happen a lot but it’s happened enough that I posted a PSA in Twitter that I wasn’t him and if you were following me for my views on Kashmir, you’d be sorely disappointed.

You're Not Perfect. That's OK.

“We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us.” (Brene Brown)

There’s an illusion in the business world that we cannot expose our flaws to anyone around us - not our colleagues, our clients and certainly not our bosses. The fear is, of course, that we will be judged, perceived as someone who is fundamentally flawed and, accordingly, cast off to career obscurity.

It’s an illusion that becomes all the more exacerbated at the management level. I can’t afford to show any weakness. I have to always impress that I know everything. I can never say ‘I don’t know’.

When You Need A Burning Platform

Change doesn’t tend to come easily to most of us.

For the most part, we don’t typically choose to change. More often, change - or at the very least, the need for it - is thrust upon us due to some exterior event, shift or development. When profits are severely impacted, when a competitor introduces a revolutionary new product or when an external environmental shift occurs, shifting the steady state we’ve become so comfortable with.