Sunday, February 26, 2012

“What is a centerfold?”

The national park ranger leading the tour of the Thomas Edison estate described the vestibule painting as very expensive, risqué and the equivalent of today’s centerfold hung in a family gathering area. As he shared other noteworthy points and concluded his comments, he asked if there were any questions. The little boy in the front of the crowd asked, “What is a centerfold?” It was humorous to see the ranger’s reaction and how fast the boy’s mother said she would explain it to him in the car.

That witty exchange made me think of the many times we as leaders say things that we think are being understood, but really are not. This is particularly acute on the international stage. Sport analogies are the most common. Push it over the goal line. In the red zone. Hook slide. Slam dunk. In the chucks. They are endless, but what if the people you are talking to do not share the same enthusiasm for sport that you do? Do you take the time to ensure the things you say have enough flavor to be interesting but also understood?

What types of communication issues have you experienced and how have you solved them?


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Annual Career Message – “Where’s the Gift?”

“Can you believe I got a 2 on the “Communication” competency on my review and he couldn’t even explain what it is I don’t do properly?” Sound familiar? I hear it every year, so every year I re-publish this “Where’s the Gift?” posting.
It’s February. Plus or minus a few weeks and many people will sit with their boss and have a performance review discussion. Hopefully this was preceded by many candid conversations and career exploratory talks. While we will all be focused on the numbers or ratings, I’d encourage you to look for the real gift in the discussion – those 1 or 2 things you can do differently or better to really excel your performance. Nigel J.A. Bristow (“Where's the Gift? How to achieve phenomenal success by discovering the gift in all feedback”) shares that we often are not looking for the gift, sometimes do not like the way it is wrapped or we find it hard to identify in the packaging.

The two worst types of feedback are “you’re doing great, keep doing what you’re doing” or “you need to step it up” but without anything specific to improve. We need to want candid feedback. If your boss does not automatically provide it, ask for your “gift”. Just as important and as uncomfortable as it may seem, we need to make sure we make bosses feel the feedback is desired and we are going to do something with it.

How do you make sure you get real performance feedback?


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Make it real

In a world where CEOs are super heroes or mass villains, it is often easy to forget the little things that make great leaders great. A colleague emailed me this Harvard Business Review “The Idea” interview with Doug Conant, former CEO of the Campbell Soup Company.

What caught my attention is the simplicity of Mr. Conant’s engagement priorities. Be real and make sure people know what you’re doing. There is little more real than receiving a hand written note from the boss. When he does his MBWA (management by walking around – Tom Peters), he puts on his “walking shoes” so people know he is walking around. You have to love the simplicity.

Do people understand your messages? Do they wonder what you stand for? How have you successfully delivered your message?


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