Lean Conversations 1: Can good communication reduce waste?

Lean Principles 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. (more…)

It’s not about you – even when it is

NotAboutYouIn 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. (more…)

Speaker Circles launched – “an introvert’s secret weapon”

Shel event2

I just announced that the next session of my Speaker Circles program is open for registration. Having the program ready is, on its own, enough to make me joyful.

But it gets better.

One of the members of the program’s Beta group, calls my speaker coaching “an introvert’s secret weapon.”

She wrote, “Sue’s helped me overcome my timidness in personal and group discussions without making me feel like I have to act like someone I’m not.”

As a coach, it’s always gratifying to learn that someone has gained from our work together. And it’s nice to hear that program does what it is supposed to.

More than that, it reinforces my strongly held belief that coaching is a true collaboration.

While I may or may not be “an introvert’s secret weapon,” she’s definitely “a coach’s ideal client.” She lets herself try new things even when they’re deeply uncomfortable. When I first met her, speaking was very uncomfortable. (We have the video to prove it.) Still, she was willing to try new things, to test her limits, to override the inner critic that keeps us where we are. She trusted an inner voice that told her she had something important to say. And she does. And now people are hearing it at networking and professional development events throughout our region.

Passion and purpose helped her expand her comfort zone, along with a little help from her coach and a friendly audience of other learners. (more…)