What Good is an Idea If You Can’t Communicate It?


As Lee Iacocca the former CEO of Chrysler once said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”

My observation is that this is often a struggle for some people. They are very good with writing code or calculating variances and tolerances. But, put them in front of people where they have to connect, and influence and it can be a different story.

We have all grown up communicating. So, why is this difficult? I think it is because many of us are not mindful or intentional in our communication. We just start sharing our ideas. In many cases what we want to say is appropriate but how we say it leaves something to be desired.

I remember the promotion that I did not receive after I “helped” a customer service rep understand why she should help a customer.  Let’s call her Janice…said she would not pull together a special report for my client as it wasn’t a priority. It was my largest client… it was a priority to me. In my most dramatic and emphatic tone, followed by the throwing of a telephone, I told her exactly why she should do it and if she did not, what it meant about her character.

A few hours later after my boss Greg had gotten off the phone with Janice’s boss, he came in to talk. “John, I know when we hired you we were planning to put you into a management slot. That’s on hold now. You don’t play well with others.”  “Oh, and by the way, you are right Janice does need to run that report. It was your communication that caused the problem.”

When we say what we want to say or send the email we want to send without considering its impact on the other party, we can be damaging productivity and/or the performance of the team.

Via Pixabay

There are four principles that will help. They are:

  • Clarity – When we are clear on what we want others to do and what success looks like, we are leaving little room for misinterpretation. And all too often we are vague. Either because we have not thought it through, or we are trying to be “nice” in our communications.
  • Candor – We have to speak the truth, even the uncomfortable truth. Yet we often do not. In some cases, because we don’t want to hurt other’s feelings. In others, it’s because candor is not welcome. Lack of candor and keeping mistakes hidden can kill your business.
  • Respect – When people feel disrespected, they will withhold their efforts at work, they will take time away from their work, and in many cases, they will take it out on the customer. Here is the sad thing research from Harvard shows that 98% of us have experienced disrespect at work and almost half of us have experienced it in the last week!
  • Attention – Where do we focus our attention. I have worked with a number of engineers and tech people. They are often very good at seeing the flaws. Sometimes not so much at observing the desired outcome. Where this comes into play is that we have a part of our brain called the reticular activating system, (RAS). It is like the GPS for our mind and really our lives. Whatever we put in there, it starts searching for. This is the part of your brain that sees all of the cars that are just like yours once you buy a new car.

When we become clear and express candor; when we show respect and focus on what we want from people versus what we do not want we can get great results.

I am reminded of a client, we will call Owen. He had a sales team that had been missing quota. As we worked together for three months, he got clear and helped his team get clear on the outcomes he wanted. They had candid conversations with respect. And he got his team to pay attention to the right things. And in 90 days his team surpassed quota three months in a row and he got 7 of his 9 reps at/or above plan.

Before your next important conversation, take just a few moments to slow down and ask yourself:

  • What outcome am I seeking?
  • What do I want them to feel?
  • Who do I need to be?

Watch what happens in your conversations.

If you wonder if you or your team can benefit from better communication skills for accountability, engagement, and performance, schedule a call with John to explore the possibilities. CALENDAR

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