communication

There is always another way to see things

The colourful dress is a great metaphor for the need to remember that people see the world differently.

The colourful dress is a great metaphor for the need to remember that people see the world differently.

I have known that things aren’t always the way you first see them since I was a child. My rainbow does not look the same as the rainbow that the vast majority of you see. I don’t see the explosion of red when bottlebrush is in season and I am just as likely to be wearing a purple tie thinking it is blue as I am a grey one thinking it is green.

I am colourblind.

For the most part, this colour uncertainty is something curious. The most serious consequences for me included not being able to choose being a pilot, a policeman or an electrical engineer as a career.

During a working bee I once spent half an hour looking for tins of green paint that turned out to be the very same tins of pink paint I had moved aside to commence my search. Other volunteers were dispatched to search for me, and when they arrived, they pointed to the cans that I had placed aside. The look on their face told me they couldn’t understand how I couldn’t see this.

Over the last two days I have found it fascinating to see how people have responded to the #thedress, the phenomenon of the photo of a dress that appears to be different colours depending on the viewer.

Original photo from tumblr user swiked.

What has stood out is the degree that people are ready to become entrenched in their position that the dress either has to be white-gold, or blue-black.

This little internet storm highlights one of the biggest challenges to communication. Everyone who is sure the dress is one colour and not the other (just like the working bee paint rescuer) struggle to accept that there could be another way to see things.

This post from arts and culture site Hyperallergic on the philosophical roots of the reaction to #thedress explores the how these experiences of ‘otherness’ challenge our understanding of the world.

But the gift that I have been given by my other-sightedness is a daily sense that there may be another way. Over the past twenty years, my work as a communicator and change manager is to help leaders, project managers, employees consider that blue might be gold and white might be black.

There is always another way to see something.

It is such a great, simple metaphor for differences in perception. Craig Silverman at Poytner has written a wonderful piece on what the whole episode can teach journalists which I recommend to anyone involved in writing, communicating and change. As Silverman writes:

“The simple truth is our brains process information in ways that can lead us astray. This is something every journalist needs to be aware of and account for in the work we do.”

For the record, I have no opinion either way on the colour of the dress. There are some excellent explainers about the phenomenon from New Scientist and IFLScience.

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How Not to Be ‘Manterrupted’ In Meetings

I once worked in an ASX 25 company where despite there being more women than men in the workforce, only one person in the ‘top 200’ senior manager group was female. Such a chronic lack of diversity changes the quality of communication, collaboration and leadership within a corporate culture.

Similarly, within the communication professions there are a higher number of women in internal and organisational communication roles (although senior roles as disproportionately held by males, as is the focus of research by IABC and Global Alliance). Too often, the biggest issue named by communicators is ‘getting heard’ by management.

At the risk of mansplaining – here are some ways communicators can ensure their voice is heard.

TIME

Manterrupting: Unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man.

Bropropriating: Taking a woman’s idea and taking credit for it

We all remember that moment back in 2009, when Kanye West lunged onto the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards, grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift, and launched into a monologue. “I’m gonna let you finish,” he said as he interrupted Swift as she was accepting the award for best female video. “But Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!”

It was perhaps the most public example of the “manterruption” – that is, a man interrupting a woman while she’s trying to speak (in this case, on stage, by herself, as an award honoree) and taking over the floor. At the VMAs it might have counted as entertainment, but ask any woman in the working world and we all recognize the phenomenon. We…

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From the Melcrum Blog: Has employee engagement lost its humanity?

Engagement remains an essential topic for organisations and leaders. I recently contributed to an online debate on whether in the process, employee engagement has lost its humanity. This is an extract. For the full discussion, including Jane Sparrow’s response, see the Melcrum blog.

For the employee, engagement doesn’t happen at a conceptual level. Like trust, engagement for them is an accumulation of perceptions and experiences, relationships and interactions.

The intensity of these individual experiences – positive or negative – will determine their scoring on factors that describe how connected they feel to their work, whether they enjoy what they do, the degree to which they feel they make an impact, whether they are able to provide good customer service.

Workplaces can foster or impede this. Engagement in organizations – when we look beyond the drivers and the factors in the instruments that measure it – consists of the accumulation of these human experiences.

– See more at: https://www.melcrum.com/blog/has-employee-engagement-lost-its-humanity#sthash.zuaDF7oe.dpuf

 

Communication lessons from #IBMCMOStudy

View “Communication lessons from #IBMCMOStudy” on Storify

The Spring communication health check

It’s spring, the days are warmer, and things are growing! In preparation for summer,

Time for a check up...

The grass has ris...

people are back at the gym, and healing the winter lawns. Winter bodies and gardens aren’t the only thing that benefit from some care and preparation for the seasons ahead. Like all natural systems, an effective communication strategy requires time and focus to grow.

We are quickly approaching the last financial quarter for 2011. Taking time before the new year to ensure your communication system have all the levers in place will be essential to delivering the 2012 business strategy for your organisation.

Take this 30-second health check to see how prepared your communication function is for the new year.

Business performance can be improved with effective communication in your business.  As a communication leader, you need to be ahead of the curve when it comes to communicating strategy.

If any of these levers are not in place, you may not get the results you are aiming for from your communication efforts.

We have a spring special on communication health checks for small and medium size businesses. Contact us on +61 412 504 252 to discuss how this special offer can help your business, or email us via this spam-safe link http://scr.im/meanbiz.

What communication channels didn’t exist when you were born?

A brief history of all things internal communication, part 1. Channels.

A history of communication channels

What channels didnt exist when you were born?

I have started developing an interactive timeline of the history of internal communication. The finished product will include developments in organisational theory, management practice, technology and key thought leaders and their impact on communication.

Part one of the timeline includes some notable milestones in communication technology and channels. I’ve included an overlay of the birth years for boomers, gen Y and millenials.

What communication channels didn’t exist when you were born?

Are there any channels you think should be included?

Next – key management theory and practice that influenced the development of internal communication.

Is instruction or direction better for engagement?

Do you return from holidays full of direction or full of instructions? One is better for engagement.

Direction or Instruction

Where are you going?

A leader I knew used the summer holiday as his ‘blue sky’ period. He would return from his trip refreshed and with a full to do list. His team had come to dread the return, as it frequently marked a change of strategy. In some cases this meant new efforts, change of direction, or even substantial reorganisation.

For his team, there was an important step missing. While he had given himself the time to think through his ideas, to internalise them and to create a to-do list at the end, his team would be frozen, waiting for the action plan. Four weeks of iterative thinking would be downloaded in an hour. In the months leading up to the break, they would shut down their thinking on new ideas or directions, knowing that there was little certainty of priorities on their return. And once the action plan was presented, there was a feeling that even if they agreed with the solution, they didn’t feel a sense of ownership as their input was missing from the actions now dictated.

The leader had come to believe that it was important that he take this time to make sure he provided clear instruction. But by doing all the thinking for them, he was missing an important opportunity to engage them in the problem and the solution. While there is great strength in aligning people behind a target, there is even greater motivation when people have context, information and an understanding of the problem or situation that they are seeking to solve.

What could he have done differently?

  • Balance destination, direction and detail. When it comes to implementation, people work with details. But before you get there, use the big picture to set the destination and establish direction. Your people might know a better route!
  • Provide clear context. Why is the number one thing, the number one thing?Customer, competitor, political, technological, social. What are the factors that informed your thinking?
  • Build the capability. Creating an environment that supports shared problem-solving, open communication, an outcome focus and clear decision-making takes time at first, but becomes a habit and can be done very effectively over time.

By giving up some control, and creating an environment with open communication, clear context, and strong sense of purpose, leaders can help their teams achieve results they may not have imagined on their own. There are times, such as during a crisis, when instruction will still be important. There is substantial evidence that during these times an engaged workforce goes beyond simply complying with instructions and commits to the outcomes.

Five of the best

There are sites that we visit once and those we check every day. And then there are those few sites that consistently bring you back for valuable, rich content. Here are five that proved valuable this year.

One
www.brainpickings.org
well curated with a creative spirit. consistently curious, eclectic and informative.

Two
www.bnet.com.au
business blog with a different voice, regularly helpful for sharing solutions.

Three
www.changethis.com
bringing big ideas forward with disciplined argument and reason through manifestos.

Four
www.getstoried.com
responsible for one of 2010’s great online conferences, the reinvention summit.

Five

Classics

Classics


www.acommunicatorsview.com
IABC veteran providing sage advice for comms and business.

Induction, undercover: lessons from Undercover Boss Australia Pt 4

For Ray Schliebs, the new CEO of Big4 Holiday Park, taking part in Undercover Boss Australia during his first week at the company was a chance to be inducted into all aspects of the business.

Undercover Boss Australia

Twitter suggests next series of Undercover Boss

Affable Schliebs comes to his first day the role with extensive experience in travel, tourism and hospitality. He is at ease with the employees at all levels and demonstrates an open rapport. Years of experience at the front line of travel has equipped him to be a good listener and to relate to a diverse range of people.

The first three months for an executive is a critical time. In that period, new leaders need to understand the organisation and set about achieving early success that will enable their subsequent agenda. Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days, recommends that new executives need to accelerate their learning. By going to a range of parks, Schliebs get to hear from the owners about what is working and what keeps them awake at night, important inputs to the strategic direction of the park.

How can leaders capitalise on being the new kid?

  • Introduce yourself. Managers and employees will interpret your comments, behaviours and decisions from the outset.
  • Get out and about. Starting in the company is a fantastic reason to see the operations. Start the way you mean to continue.
  • Ask open questions. What are you working on? How does that work? What has been working? What would you change? How can I help?
  • Listen. Then listen more.

As my mother would say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

The human face of organ transplant
Australia has one of the highest rates of success for organ transplant operations in the world, yet a transplant rate that is up to 50% lower than other countries. This episode of Undercover Boss included the story of Quentin, a Queensland park franchisee who has been able to continue a life with his family as a result of a successful transplant. For more information on organ donation, visit http://www.donatelife.gov.au/. Ticking the box is not enough, and Donate Life includes resources for you to discuss your wishes with your family.

Disclosure: I have previously provided volunteer communication services for Transplant Australia and currently for ShareLife Australia.