Tag Archives: communication

By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.

Knowledge is power.  I’m sure you’re familiar with this expression.  Stated another way, information is power.  Withholding information keeps others in the dark and at best is irritating to them.  Intentionally withholding information has a negative impact on others while simultaneously giving the person withholding that information power.  The person who determines who needs to know has the power; the person who wants to know has a feeling of being annoyed.  Have you ever been in the dark about a meeting at work or not invited to a party?  Has anyone ever sent an email that you should have been copied on and weren’t?  Have you ever been the last person to learn about something?  Withholding information is not only annoying, it leads to mistrust. WithholdInfoWithholding information comes in two forms:  intentional and unintentional.  Intentionally withholding information is manipulative, and someone who practices this is not someone I want to help.  Unintentionally or accidentally withholding information is a habit that is easy to fall into, something many of us are guilty of.  This is a very important aspect of leadership that can be dealt with.

Most leaders today are very busy with a great number of tasks that need to be completed, each task with their own sense of urgency.  In our haste to get things checked off our things to do list, it is easy to be so busy we don’t get back to others in a timely fashion.  Too often we delegate tasks to subordinates without taking the time to let them know exactly what the desired outcome looks like.  Then we get frustrated when the project or task is done, and it doesn’t look like what we wanted.  Who is to blame in that situation?  The person who withheld information!

The majority of leaders that I know and have worked with do not intentionally withhold information to manipulate others and gain power, they withhold information and don’t even realize they’re doing it.  The majority of leaders mean well and have good intentions, they are simply busy!  Getting in the habit of bad information sharing takes its toll.  Over time, it looks like information is not being shared on purpose.  Over time, whether you withhold information on purpose or not, it looks the same to other members of the organization.

How do you stop?  Simply put, you share it!  Effective leaders make time and make it a priority to share information!  Schedule time to share information with others; time that cannot be cancelled, postponed or interrupted.  Practicing this habit will improve your communication and show that you care about other members of the organization.  Everyone is on a need to know basis.  It’s something effective leaders do!

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Howdy Stranger!

Howdy Stranger!

By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.

Do you talk to strangers or do you follow your mother’s advice and never talk to strangers?  When you’re waiting to see your doctor or in line for your skinny latte at Starbucks, do you get annoyed if a stranger tries to strike up a conversation?  Worse yet, when you’re packed in like sardines on your flight home and the person pressed into your personal space in the next seat wants to talk, does that annoy you?  Do you try to avoid having a conversation?  If you want to be a more effective leader, you need to learn how to say “howdy stranger!”

A Harvard Business School study concluded that talking to strangers results in happiness similar to that of chatting with family and close friends.  Talking to strangers can also be a mood booster.  Researchers had predicted that only extroverts would experience improved happiness or a mood boost, but discovered instead that any personality type gets the happiness/mood bump.

Man&WomanTalking

So I did a little experiment.  Recently I was at a conference where everyone was on their own for lunch and the dining options were limited.  I ended up at a food stand where the line and the wait were both too long.  But instead of getting frustrated or stressed out, I started talking to the stranger in front of me.  To make a long story short, we ended up eating lunch together, engaged in one of the more interesting conversations I’ve had recently!  The former stranger, now person, I met was a true pioneer, the first minority to break barriers in a niche industry.  A sharing of the trials and tribulations of being a pioneer were both inspirational and troubling at the same time.  I thought the world had made more progress.  It was a conversation that had a big impact on me; it was definitely a mood booster, it made me happy that I could have such an engaging conversation with someone I didn’t know, and it made me think!  It was a conversation that normally I would have totally missed out on.

The next time you find yourself in a similar situation, standing or sitting by a stranger, try your own experiment.  You could start by simply saying, “howdy stranger!”

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Don’t Think Before You Talk

Don’t Think Before You Talk

By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.

When I landed my sales job at US Surgical several years ago, I was so excited!  US Surgical’s sales force was known for being an elite group of sales professionals.  One financial article described us as the “Green Berets” of surgical device sales persons.  We loved that!

Shortly after I had completed my training, my manager decided to do a customary three-day field visit.  I felt obligated to take him to my largest account to show him what great progress I was making there.  We were able to get in front of one of the busier surgeons where I proceeded to demonstrate my incredible communication skill by asking a well-articulated open-ended question.  And, thanks to my excellent ability to ask a thought-provoking open-ended question, the surgeon obliged with a long eloquent answer.  I was so impressed with my ability to ask such a great question, I couldn’t wait to dazzle my manager with another open-ended gem.  So instead of listening to what the surgeon was saying, I was mentally crafting that next gem.  As soon as the surgeon finally quit talking (it took him quite a while because I had asked such a great question), I unloaded my next one.  After I asked it, I was shocked to see the puzzled looks on the face of both my manager and the surgeon.  What was wrong with them?  Were they blind to my superior communication skill?

talking-head

Thank goodness my manager was there to bail me out!  I had thrown away all the information the surgeon had provided (and my credibility) by ignoring everything he had said, much of which needed further conversation, by asking a second question that took us in an entirely different direction!  As soon as we finished our meeting, my manager helped me learn and develop by demonstrating the skill of candid feedback.  His major emphasis was on one thing:  LISTEN!

Effective listening is part of effective leadership.  Here is an idea for you to try:  Don’t think before you talk.  The next time you are in a conversation with another person, make sure everything you say is based on the last sentence spoken by the other person.  Most people don’t really listen.  Like me in the story above, instead of listening, most people are busy thinking about what they are going to say next while the other person is talking.  Responding to the specific things the other person is saying could take your conversations to a higher level and enhance your leadership effectiveness.

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Words = Power = Revenue

Words = Power = Revenue

By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.

What can I say?  I’m an Abraham Lincoln geek!  Abraham Lincoln is one of my heroes.  From as early as I can remember, I have always held Honest Abe in high esteem.  Not only did I grow up in the “Land of Lincoln,” I have read numerous books about him and have visited his birthplace in Kentucky, the homestead where he grew up in Indiana, New Salem, IL, where he lived as a young man, his home in Springfield, IL, the bed where he died across the street from the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C., and other Lincoln landmarks.  Abraham Lincoln—the life he led, the man he was, the things he accomplished and the words he spoke are all sources of inspiration.  Lincoln’s oratory skill is something I aspire to.  His words carried great power during his life and still do to this day.

In 1858, a series of seven debates between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas took place around the state of Illinois.  At the time, U.S. senators were elected by the state legislature.  Lincoln and Douglas were attempting to help their respective parties win control over the Illinois legislature which in turn would determine which one of them would become the next U.S. senator for Illinois.  The debates previewed the issues that Lincoln would face when he became president in 1860.  The primary issue of all the debates was slavery.

Large crowds gathered to hear the debates as slavery was such an important topic of the times.  Newspaper coverage was intense and articles were reprinted in newspapers across the nation.  Lincoln ended up losing his bid to the senate, and later edited the texts of all the debates and published them in a book.  The widespread coverage of the debates and popularity of the book helped Lincoln receive the nomination for President of the United States in 1860 which led to his becoming President.

LincolnDouglasDebate

The very first Lincoln-Douglas debate took place in Ottawa, IL, on August 21, 1858, at 2:00 pm.  It just so happened that I was in Ottawa, IL, last week on August 21, and I went to the town square around 2:00 in the afternoon where that first debate is memorialized with a statue.  It was incredible to stand there and to absorb the history on the same date and time it took place 156 years ago.

Abraham Lincoln provides us with a great example of leadership and the power of words.

Leadership communication can influence others with impact.  Adam Grant, Ph.D., at the Wharton School of Business, examined that impact by having the leader of a company give a motivational speech to a team of new employees at one of the company’s call centers.  What happened?  Afterwards, revenue at that call center had a nice increase, 300% to be exact, as compared to a control group that didn’t hear the speech.  Now that’s an impact!  Words to have power!  Many companies would be very satisfied with this result, but wait, there’s more!

A team hearing a message from the leader AND a beneficiary of the work being done at the company increased revenue by a whopping 700%!   Leadership communication can be highly effective, and hearing a similar message from someone who has been authentically affected and benefited from the content of the leader’s message puts that leadership communication effectiveness on steroids.  Leadership effectiveness through effective communication includes finding a beneficiary to help your message echo through the halls of your organization for greater revenue and greater success.  After all, who better to share your message than a person who has benefited from it?

All great leaders need to be great orators.  Lincoln’s oratory skills led him to become the 16th President of the United States and a President who had a tremendous impact on shaping our country’s history.  This wouldn’t have been possible if not for his effective and compelling communication skills.  Likewise, today’s leaders need to be effective communicators to spread their message and motivate their teams to have a positive impact on the world.

What is your message?  Who is your beneficiary who can help echo that message?  Once you know the answers to those questions, in collaboration with that beneficiary, you can deliver a powerful message with a huge impact!

Words = Power = Revenue

 

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Leadership & the Misinterpreted Email

Leadership & the Misinterpreted Email

Effective leaders take pride in their communication skill.  Show me a great leader and I’ll show you a great communicator.  Show me a poor leader and I’ll show you a poor communicator.  Okay, I know I’ve said that before, but I will keep saying it because it is so true!  Every leader can improve his or her leadership skill set, particularly when it comes to communication. How many emails do you send and receive each day?  There are some days I don’t even want to know!  Email has to be the most common form of organizational communication today, internally within the organization and externally to those outside the organization. Dynamite Have you ever received an email that quickly burned through a short fuse to a stick of dynamite, and you were that stick of dynamite?  Have you ever been angry over the message you read in an email only to find out later that the sender meant something different?  Or at least that’s what they said when you questioned them about it! What about the other side of that?  Have you ever sent an email to someone who misinterpreted what you said?  It’s actually quite common! Email1 In a recent study, psychologist Nicholas Epley had study participants deliver messages by phone and by email.  The study examined two types of messages:  sincere messages and sarcastic messages.  Senders and receivers both considered themselves highly competent in their ability to send and receive messages accurately and therefore, their ability to correctly interpret the meaning of those messages.  What was discovered was that the message delivered verbally by phone had a much higher level of accurate understanding!  In emails, the true intent of the message was commonly lost.  The results of the study emphasize the significant difference between written communication and spoken or audio communication.  It also emphasizes the significance of non-verbal cues that take place during communication.  When speaking to someone over the phone, in addition to the verbal communication taking place with the spoken word, there is also non-verbal communication taking place with tone, inflection, the use of silence, etc.  In an email, all the audio cues of non-verbal communication are missing, yet email has numerous non-verbal aspects including the choice of words, grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.  And if you use emoticons, that adds another dimension. This study puts a nonverbal exclamation point (!!!) on the idea that LEADERS NEED TO BE AWARE of how important it is to select the appropriate communication channel.  Is a verbal conversation more effective (either in person, on the phone, via Skype, etc.) or the written word, whether it’s in an email, memo, or letter (do people still write letters?)? Leaders need to consider the message being sent as both a sender and receiver for greater understanding of one’s intentions and message.  This will result in greater clarity and more effective leadership. What do you think?  Please don’t send me an email, just leave a comment below.

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