How to prevent the over-commitment that leads to overwhelm
This article first appeared in our newsletter in 2003. Still true!
It’s a small yet powerful word, one with big consequences. It’s a word that can improve our lives and make us more valuable to those we say it to – those we want to help in this world.
At the end of a week in which I – and the feelings I was experiencing – seemed to be on a non-stop rush from appointment to commitment to obligation to ordeal, I stopped to reflect on what was making me feel so beleaguered.
I examined my “To Do” list, and highlighted the things I really wanted to do. Almost all the highlighted items had fallen (or were they pushed?) to the bottom of the page. Activities that were important to me had, for months, languished, ignored and forgotten, beneath activities that other people wanted me to do. Ouch!
It had something to do with my reluctance to use the word “No.” A little reading and a lot of reflection showed me:
- That NO is not a dirty word
- How to say NO without feeling guilty
- And why saying NO increases the value of the things we say YES to.
How does it happen?
Keep on reading
I’m getting lean. Alas, this is not about my body. It’s something I’ll call “lean communication.” I’m not about to preach on short sentences and plain words, though that can be part of it. I’m convinced that good communication reduces waste.
In manufacturing, the concept of “lean” describes practices that use fewer resources to provide greater value to customers. Anything customers don’t value enough to pay for is considered “waste,” something to eliminate. Lean practices originated in manufacturing in the 1940s, when Taiichi Ohno introduced them at Toyota. Over the years, they’ve been adopted and adapted in many contexts, including lean startups and lean software development.
When I look at the ideas I use with my communication coaching clients, I see a lot of overlap with lean principles, particularly those set out by the Lean Enterprise Institute. I’ve paraphrased them, but you can find the original version here.
1. Establish value from the customer’s perspective
This is my top tip for communication. I never tire of sharing it because it works so well. The audience for any communication might be considered your “customers.” The more you can make your communication about them and their needs, the more likely you are to be listened to, heard and understood. Whether you’re addressing one person or 100, in conversation, in presentations, in broadcast or in writing, you can almost never go wrong if you explain your point from the perspective of your audience. You make people care about your message by answering their question, “What’s in it for me?” (WIFM) That’s the value will it have for them. When you talk about anything they don’t value – no matter how much you love it – you waste your time and theirs. [Read the whole post...]
A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I was a television reporter. The radio people, with whom we shared a newsroom, called us “vidiots.” Were we insulted? No way! We wore the title with pride.
As someone in the business of face-to-face communication, I know I should be using video to share ideas. But memories of a world where smart professionals looked after shooting and editiing make me reluctant to wade into the land of do-it-yourself TV. So I was delighted to be invited to Video Space Camp, a full day of learning, brought to us by Vidyard. (It’s an amazing company I think of as “YouTube for real business.”)
There’s no way to capture a full day’s learning in a blog post, but here are the highlights, as seen through my lens. Keep on reading
I have no idea why they call it “camp.” It’s held in summer, there are games and it’s fun. But you’re unlikely to get a sunburn at Agile Coach Camp. And there are no spiders – though we did build a web – literally and metaphorically.
The weekend attracts people whose role is to help introduce new ways of working, primarily in software development. Communication is at the heart of the work of the agile coach as he or she helps teams work in more human-centric ways. Coach camp invites them to bring ideas and questions to discuss with colleagues in a conference framework called “open space.”
The French term for “attend” is “assister.” At ACC, participants truly do “assist.” We’re not watching a presentation; we’re part of a dialogue. I am rarely in a situation where so many people are listening carefully to what others are saying. Nor did anyone seem to be trying to impress anyone. (This crowd may be hard to impress.)
Keep on reading
In a lifetime of working in, studying and observing human communication, I’ve learned enough to fill about 100 books. If I had to distill it all into one actionable idea, it would be, “Make it about the audience.”
This advice is as useful when you’re talking to one person as it is when you’re presenting to a crowd. It also works when you’re creating marketing material, running a meeting, writing an annual report or sending a note to your babysitter.
It’s a paradox. As business people, we’re communicating about our products or services. Or we might be looking for support for our idea in a meeting or giving instructions to employees. Our business. Our ideas. Our stuff. Doesn’t the communication have to be about us and what we want?
The answer is, “Not really.” The chance of someone understanding you – and doing what you’d like them to – is greater when you design the communication around them and their needs.
Who is your audience? What interests them? What do they need to hear? What do they think they know? What do you want them to do? Why should they care? Thinking about the answers to these questions as you create and deliver your message increases the chances you will reach the people you’re talking to and that they’ll understand your message. Keep on reading
Originally posted at the International Association Of Coaching
For over 30 years, I’ve been a communication professional. Educated, mentored, accredited and experienced in every form of communication, I looked like the real deal. Yet it wasn’t until I trained as a coach that I truly learned to communicate.
I was working in corporate communication when I had the disturbing realization that how people talk to each other at work has more impact than the formal programs to which I was devoting my career. Fortunately, I met a coach. Being coached gave me an appreciation for deliberate and conscious conversation. Coach training gave me the tools. It forever changed the way I talk with everyone.
I learned to look beyond the story.
In earlier days, when I talked to people, I looked for the story. For daily news, it had to inform or entertain. For organizations, it had to line up with some corporate objective. Today, whether or not I am coaching, my focus is on the person behind the story. The more I focus on the person, the more interesting our conversation becomes. My attention builds the trust that helps people feel comfortable sharing their stories.
In coaching, I learned that the story someone brings me – the “presenting problem” – is not always the real issue. Probing for clarification has been just as useful in revealing what’s really going on with colleagues, family members and acquaintances as it has for clients. [Read the whole post...]