Nancy Hardaway photo
When you speak do people listen?  Do they understand?  Do they care? When you write a message do they know what you meant?  Read these tips to create clarity and impact.
A Conference Call in Real Life
A Conference Call in Real Life
This example of missed communication is funny and sad at the same time.  It is all too real.  Not only does this lack of connection happen virtually, unfortunately this is a metaphor for what can happen in person as well.
Communicating Expectations

    The boss gives directions for a project.  The staff fails to meet expectations.  Whose fault is it?
    Bosses are often afraid it's them.  "I didn't explain well enough."  "I wasn't clear."  "I didn't give them a deadline."
   How do you make sure you are clear, whether in a casual conversation or a meeting?
   Think  of these four questions:
By when?
     People need to understand what it is they are being asked to do, and they need to have some sense of why it matters.  Context helps people engage.  If the process is important to the outcome, they need to understand how to accomplish the objective.  And they need to know by when (specifically, as in Monday, not just soon.)
   Compare these two simple requests and decide which would get you what you needed.

"Margie,  put something together on the new division sales  expectations for me.  No rush."

"Margie, I need to have you complete the sales projections for the new division.  I will be including your figures in the presentation I make to the board on Friday.  I'll need them in a Powerpoint slide presentation - just a few slides would do.  I'd like time to  review your data and slides in advance so I'll need them by the end of the day on Wednesday."

    Even if you don't care when you want something done, establish a deliverable time frame between you, so you are aligning expectations.
     When the requests or expectations become more complex, it's best to ask the listener to summarize their understanding so you can clarify any nuanced differences.  


Penguins Arguing 1. Communication is two way.  Don't just be in send mode - make sure to receive.


2. Think of your audience (whether one or many) before you decide what to say.  What do they need to know?  Want to know?


3. Repeat yourself.  Say something in multiple ways.  When it's too familiar to you, you often skip pieces when sharing with others.


4. Prioritize.  Start with the big picture so I know what to listen to or read for.  Then share only those details I need to know to understand.  Let me ask for more if I need it.  


5. Often less is more.  People run out of time or interest.  They put long emails off for later (or never).


6. Use stories and examples to make it real.


7. Manage your emotions.  If conflict arises, try not to be intimidated or to overpower.  Stay calm or take a break.

 8. Ask for questions.  Assume there ARE questions!

 9. Ask questions of others. 

Click here for more in this Forbes blog post on communication.
   At an international conference last week, I observed people of many languages communicating.  Because we didn't assume we would be understood, we made more effort.  
     As presenters, we spoke more slowly. We invited everyone to raise a hand if they needed help hearing or understanding.  We checked body language and faces for confusion.  We explored saying things more than one way. We explained jargon.  We framed topics carefully and chose details to enhance meaning.
    We would all do well to assume we may not be understood and make the same effort to speak clearly, rather than expecting the other to do all the work of translation.
In This Issue
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The Awareness Paradigm
Learn skills of leading through a captivating story.
Available in paperback or e-book on  Amazon, on the Listening 2 Leaders website, or at Books by the Sea, in Osterville, MA  

Presentation Zen
Garr Reynolds

Learn about your audience in advance

Prepare strong structure and good content that provides value

Connect emotionally with your audience

Share energy & passion

Be visible to the audience (not behind a podium or in the dark)

Use slides carefully only to add or enhance meaning

Stay present and calm

Leave your audience yearning for more rather than overstuffed

Always think more about your audience than yourself
Five Reasons to Speak Up (When You're Reluctant Because of Risk or Discomfort)

1.  Silence is often seen as approval.

2.  The greater good should take precedence over your comfort.

3.  You're there and in it anyway - show you're invested.

4.  No one else may know what you do.

5.  You may find others feel the same way.

Why People Care to Listen to You
1.  You listen more than you speak.
2.  You focus on them and not on your stuff (closed laptop, phone away, etc.)
3.  You explain why.
4.  You can be trusted to mean and do what you say.
5.  You don't talk ill of others.
6.  You admit your failings.
7.  You share the spotlight and shine it on others.
8.  You don't try to  sound like the expert. 



  This summer I took a course on graphic facilitation, using imagery to enhance communication and alignment in meetings.  It was fascinating to experience for myself how much the graphics added to my understanding, even of directions for an exercise.  It wasn't about art, it was about intentional and effective communication.

   It took thought and discipline to use images (which still might contain a few words) that conveyed complex concepts or events. You didn't have the luxury of lots of words or sentences to get to the point.  You had to have extreme clarity about what you wanted to convey and distill the meaning to its most important elements.  The structure required made me a better communicator. 

   The imagery also allowed for testing alignment among us.  Asking if everyone agreed that this or that image was the right icon or symbol tested the nuances of our understanding.  We immediately saw how we were interpreting concepts differently. And images helped us capture ideas.

   There are three lessons here for creating clarity,  One is the discipline of figuring out in advance what you want to convey, what's most important for people to know and remember.   

     The second is checking to be sure people got it. Asking if people understand isn't enough, because when they nod their heads you won't know what picture is in their head of what you said.  You need to get them to explain their understanding.

     The third is the "harvesting" of the ideas or decisions - culling out the main ideas or points that have been discussed or agreed upon.

     I've been testing using structured images for agendas, for note-taking, even in my own journals. Here's an example of an agenda template, courtesy of one of our leaders, Nanna Frank, of Denmark (the other was Sky Freyss-Cole).  For those interested, the program will be offered again next year at the Gestalt International Study Center in Wellfleet.


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