Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

An uplifting manifesto

January 10th, 2013 1 comment

I saw this manifesto as a custom subway poster looking for gifts late last year and am sharing.  The Holstee Manifesto was written by two brothers, Mike and Dave Radparvar and their business partner, Fabian Pfortmuller on the steps of Union Square.  They basically just wrote down what was on their minds.



You can download a 8.5×11 pdf version here or buy a larger more stylish version here


Freedom of Speech

January 18th, 2012 No comments

I was raised in South Africa and as such I got to experience the apartheid era.  I saw firsthand what affect discrimination and censorship had on the population and as a result I support the concept that everyone has the right to make their own decisions, even if those decisions will have a negative impact on themselves.  Censorship is one of the first freedoms removed when a dictator comes into power, is that where the USA is going??  Let’s not just hope, but also take a stance and influence.  Here are some words of wisdom from Edmund Burke


All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.

This blog contains original content and therefore theoretically be supporting the fight against piracy and copyright infringement; which I do!  However imbedded in this law is the requirement for ISP’s to inspect traffic and block what they deem to be content that is infringing.  I’m sorry but I do not believe that they are qualified to make that decision and therefore I am speaking up.

Google is fighting this and you can sign their petition here


Here are some news and articles with more information so that you can make your own decision on this topic:



CNN Money –




Categories: Communication Tags:

Mind Reader – Not! …….. speak & listen to communicate

January 7th, 2012 No comments

A while back, I was asking a friend for guidance and she said something a not being a mind reader and therefore I needed to speak my mind.  We laughed, stayed on topic and I communicated clearer so that she was able to understand me.  I started thinking about this and noticed that when I don’t know what to do or have a difficult problem to solve, I get quiet and think.  This generally takes time……….and while I am processing away, what message are others around me receiving?  Or in the instance of when we are tying to communicate something, we assume that people are getting the message that we intended.

I brought this up at our cohort meetings and we have discussed this in detail.  We all agreed that for clear communication to happen, you need the following address the following areas:

Someone must talk

Despite the many technology aids that we have, face-to-face verbal communication still remains the most effective method of communication and therefore someone needs to talk.

The reason behind the face-to-face communication and not TXT’ing, email, telephone is that these communication mechanism are all single mechanisms.  Face-to-face is the only mechanism that provides us with the ability to get at least three communication mechanisms.  The key ones are verbal, non verbal such as eye contact, expressions and gestures, and environmental situation (noisy room).

However, if it is not possible for face-to-face dialogue, then it is far better to use a single faceted communication mechanism such as TXT’ing, phone, and / or email.

Someone must listen

Not listening is biggest challenge with communication because we are so focused on getting our message across that we miss what the other person is trying to communicate to us.  If you catch yourself formulating your response to what the person is saying, then you are not listening to them.  Make sure that you understand what they are attempting to communicate, so ask clarifying questions.  Depending on culture, paraphrasing what you understood them to say back to them.

The most important element of listening is to shut up!


Is the person ready to receive the message that you are attempting to communicate?  This is a big one that is often overlooked.  If you are not sure, just ask them.  If you upset someone and even if you are ready and willing to apologize, are they ready for the message?

Is doing nothing the default option?

For those that are disagreeing with me right now and think that doing nothing is the acceptable default option.  (Pacific Northwest and the Passive Aggressive Communication style)  I would ask you to think about the following:

  • What message is being received when you do not communicate one?  Are there others that are communicating on your behalf?  If so, are they communicating your message or theirs?  In my experience, they will communicate a message that is beneficial to them and not to you.  Only you can communicate the nuances of your message.
  • If you do not know what you want to communicate, it is OK to acknowledge that and communicate that.  Acknowledging and communicating your perspective will form the basis on which you communicate on.





September 29th, 2011 No comments

In a previous post titled: Simple Approach / Plan for Change, I brought up Awareness as the first phase for change.  This has been the stimulant for a number of conversations about what Awareness and requests for more clarity on the topic.
I have been having lot’s of conversations with managers about how to get people to modify their behavior. Behavior modification starts with making the person aware of the impact of their behaviors. The awareness state is the first step of a journey that enables us to change the situation or address the issue.  Getting someone to the aware state can be a rather daunting hurdle, mainly because our egos get in the way. Awareness is just having the knowledge about the current situation or state of affairs. So let’s look at the process that we all go through to become aware. Awareness Flow


Moving from an unaware state to an aware state is a journey that requires an event or trigger to kick start the transition process of moving from an unaware state to an aware state. For self-aware folks, you are able to generate this event without help from the outside. However for most of us normal folks, we require some outside help to generate the the event. Think of the event as your alarm clock going off in the morning. We might not particularly enjoy it going off but it can definitely help us from being late and is therefore very beneficial to us. Managers:  We might need to be the ones that create the event that kick starts this process.


In this phase we tend to ignore or deny the incoming data / perspective because the situation does not match our preconceived idea or notion of how we want it to be.   This phase can be traumatic and depending on the implications or if the situation it may have an emotional on us.  This phase is the most impactful all around because the personal that is doing the denying can feel that they are being picked on.  The people that are trying to help can easily just stop trying to help because they are getting told that there is not an issue.  People just get tired of trying to help and walk away.

Recognizing this phase:

  • Our perspective is different from other peoples.
  • Unwillingness to discuss the situation with others.
  • Denial will manifest itself as emotional spikes or silence.  The more passive the personality, the more the silence.

With practice this phase can be shortened but unfortunately not bypassed so make peace with it.  It is OK to wish and / or wonder why this is happening to us.  The circumstances of the event and associated emotional impact with have an impact of the duration of this phase. Managers:  Give people time to process the event and the implications.

Manager’s Note:

  • Work with your people and take them through the trauma.  In certain situations, they might need to get external help, so work with your HR representative and be aware of the manpower laws.
  • Do not mistakenly categorize silence as denial because analytical personalities take time to process the data and they tend to process in silence.


  • Getting stuck in this phase means that we are disconnected from reality and often leads to argumentative behavior.
  • People that just deny will find that people will stop trying to help them.


Redirecting the attention elsewhere is an attempt not to involve ourselves.  This phase is where people find the reasons and attempt to rationalize things why not to accept this information that is different to our perspective or desired state.

Recognizing this phase:

  • Redirecting the attention or blame onto others.
  • I can’t do anything about this situation / issue.
  • Raising points about similar behaviors / issues with others thereby justifying their perspective.

Manager’s Note:

  • Do not allow people to play the victim or to rationalize the situation as not theirs issue.  Accountability starts here.
  • Equality for all – do not treat people differently because it is divisive to the team morale.
  • Stay focused on the individuals situation and do not fall into the trap of discussing this issue as a relative issue.


  • This is the victim state because it is a lot easier to redirect the attention form us.



Yeah I know I talk too much We all start off in an unaware state where we do not have the knowledge in our minds. If we are lucky enough we manage to make it to an aware state where we have the knowledge and are then able to define our action plan based on the knowledge we have gained. Let’s look at the process of how we move from the unaware state to an aware state so that we can remove the luck portion and manage the situation better. People that are self-aware have the ability to generate the Event with little to no outside help.


Recognizing this phase:

  • Run out of excuses is the most common.
  • You have adopted or modified your perspective to include the points raised.
  • Able to list the points where your perspectives were different or the similarities.


Manager’s Note:

Acknowledgement is last step of awareness but for managers it is important to help our people use this new awareness to modify their behavior appropriately.  Help them and coach them through to the desired state.



  • It is important to differentiate between acknowledgement and a plan to address the issue discovered through the new found awareness.
  • When dealing areas of improvement, it is important not overwhelm the person and also to help with a plan to address these issues.  Without the help, they will quickly become demoralized.






Simple Approach / Plan for Change

Signs of Incompetent Managers

January 27th, 2011 No comments

Earlier this week I downloaded a paper titled “Eight Signs of Incompetent Managers”.  The link to register and download the paper is at the bottom of the post.

Based on research that Profiles International conducted to identify America’s most productive companies, they identified the following Eight Signs of an Incompetent Manager

  1. Poor communication skills
  2. Weak leadership capabilities
  3. Inability or unwillingness to adapt to change
  4. Poor relationship-building skills
  5. Ineffective task management
  6. Insufficient production
  7. Poor developer of others
  8. Neglectful of own personal development
To get the details, you can download the paper here:

Do you communicate clearly?

September 15th, 2009 No comments

OK, I know the image above is not visually clear and here is the paragraph again:

“I love mine.  It allows me to wake up refreshed every evening thereby enabling me to me be bright eyed and bushy tailed for the night shift.  The metallic retro design really goes with my cottage and I really like the squeaky springs and the new mattress just complements the whole package.”

Not much clearer, is it?

    • What is she talking about?   The answer is – Her bed.
    • What was she trying to say?  The answer is – She really likes her bed

      Fortunately there are two simple things that can help you ensure that statements that you make, written or verbal, are easily to understand.  Let’s take a look at the following two areas:

      • the number of points communicated  (Focus)
      • how many sentences or words are used to convey the message (Fog Factor)


      Let’s go back to the foggy statement above and see how many points were communicated?

      “I love mine”, “night shift”, “wake up refreshed”, “metallic design”, “matches cottage design”, “squeaky springs”, and finally we can work out that the collection of these statements are talking about a bed – all of these totals up to 7 different points mentioned.  Which of these 7 points are the ones that really need to be communicated?

      The statement should be clear and concise.  A clear version of the statement above could be: “I really like my bed”.

      A good rule of thumb is to have no more than 3 points.

      Fog Factor

      There is much research on determining the understandability of a sentence or paragraph.  For the technically savy or those writing,  I covered how to use Microsoft Word in this post on Document Readability.

      For the times when we do not want to use technology here is another way to determine the Fog Factor.

      Determine the average number of words per sentence, add the number of  words with 3-or-more syllables and multiply by 0.4.

      For the mathematically inclined or the detailed orientated folks, the formula is as follows:

      1. a = the average number of words per sentence (total number of words divided by the number of sentences)
      2. b =  the number of words that contain more than 3 or more syllables excluding proper nouns
      3. c = a + b
      4. Fog Factor = c * 0.4

      Comprehension and how it affects our professional life

      August 11th, 2009 No comments

      I have been reading various articles and books by ED Hirsch; his writing is thought provoking.  Although the most of his writings are focused on the state of the American schooling and how the reading and comprehension.  Naturally, I am trying to apply his perspectives to my life as a hi-tech professional.

      My takeaways from his writings are:

      • Reading is the comparatively simple exercise of deciphering the letters and words
      • Comprehension is the more complicated effort where the intent behind the words needs to be understood.
        • As part of our daily interchange we often need to understand what is being not said as well as what not being.  After all we need to understand what the person is trying to communicate and what what they say sometimes…..
        • We need to have a baseline level of knowledge about the topic to understand what is being communicated.  He used tennis example and conveyed the message very well because if you do not know that the games stops for rain or a baseline game is, you will not be able to follow the conversation.

      These points got me thinking about these points and the lessons that can be taken across to the work environment.

      Here are Ed Hirsch’s books on Amazon:

      Effective Communication

      May 11th, 2009 No comments

      I was discussing communication with a number of people this week where they were expressing some frustration around not achieving the results that they were expecting.  I have adopted a  fictional character called Larry who wants to communicate an idea to some key stakeholders.  In an effort to communicate effectively, Larry has adopted a structured approach where he has laid out the the problem, the options and finally the solution. In the graphic below, I have created a graphical representation of the flow of the communication.


      Now, let’s take a look at this this flow.  The black lines illustrate where Larry is communicating the problem, the options and finally the solution.   The yellowish lines indicate the flow from element to element.

      Although this is a very structured approach that is well laid out.  Unfortunately, as Larry found out his listeners wanting and he was not able to convince his stakeholders.  This is often the case when a new idea is being presented or when the listeners are unfamiliar with the background.  Because people need to catch up and from zero to where they can understand Larry’s definition of the problem.  Literally they need to from 0 to 60 in 2 2 seconds flat.  Also because they are still processing one element while Larry has moved onto the next element, the listeners missed portions of the options or solution definitions.

      Now let’s take a look at a modified version of this flow where Larry actually took a breath and checked with his listeners to make sure that they were grasping the concepts that he was trying to communicate.  Quite literally he slowed down in order to speed up.


      Just like the previous graphic, the black line illustrate the problem definition.  The yellowish lines indicate the flow from element to element.  Now let’s introduce some key elements that will change the flow drastically.  The green circles with the cross inside are there to provide the stakeholders with some time to think and process what Larry told them.  As the stakeholders process the information, they might have questions, as indicated by the question marks.  Larry needs to provide them with the opportunity to ask questions and/or provide feedback.  Why feedback, you might ask.  Well it is human nature that we all need to feel heard and respected and therefore it is common for the stakeholder want to add their 2 cents.

      This dialogue portion is critical to overcoming any fears or concerns that the stakeholders might have.  As the stakeholders buy into what Larry is telling them, he needs to draw them in, with open ended questions and encouraging them to provide input.  In the graphic, the blue line denotes where Larry has gathered the stakeholder input, feedback and incorporating it into the definition of  Problem, Options and Solution.  By getting the stakeholders to help, all that remains is for you to paint in the remaining black portion.

      This approach has some key benefits:

      • people feel respected because they were given time to process and ask questions
      • people do not feel dictated to
      • the options and solutions move from a single person;s idea to a collaborative idea
      • it takes less sales to get everyone on board because the baby is partly theirs and we all know that your baby is never ugly

      Try this technique and please let me know what you think.

      Categories: Communication, Emotions Tags:

      writing presentations

      January 30th, 2009 No comments

      This week I watched people stress over an executive presentation.  Here are some of the simple guidelines that I follow when writing a PowerPoint presentation.  The key with writing a presentation is that the presentation is supporting the message that you are going to be deliver.  The presentation is not the messenger, you are!

      use templates

      general guidelines

      • keep the text on the lines short as possible
      • use spell check
      • no full sentences
      • no periods at the end of lines
      • don’t do repeats
        • if you are talking about toothpaste, don’t put it on each line, just put it in the page title
      • minimum font size = half the age of the oldest person in the room
        • do not do it by eye – use the font properties of the text box
      • communicate on three levels (data, emotion, me) as covered in this post

      If you are concerned about people being able to use the slides for reference after the presentation, there are two simple options for this dilemma.

      1. create detailed notes for each slide – this does have the downside that people need to see that there are notes as part of the presentation bt it does work well for printouts.  Remember to spell check.
      2. create a separate slide deck that is specifically written for reference purposes

      Book: The Leader’s Voice

      January 28th, 2009 No comments

      The Leader’s Voice: How Communication Can Inspire Action and Get Results!

      1st edition
      Authors: Boyd Clarke, Ron Crossland
      ISBN: 1590790162

      2nd edition
      Authors: Ron Crossland
      ISBN: 1590791525

      A manager is only as good as their communication with people.  After all, managers need to achieve results through the actions of others and therefore communicate is critical to their success.  I give all of my directs this book and I have read it 4 times.  Hopefully one of these days I will be able implement the behavioral changes needed for me to master communication.  Here are the key messages that I took from the book.


      I have been told numerous times that the numbers speak for themselves and if this statement was true everyone would be able to read a balance sheet….  That being said, the data is critical because it provides the quantitative information that is needed to convince people of your perspective.


      We humans are emotional beings, even though some us like to deny it.  Think of messages delivered by people that you liked. Or disliked.  I ask this because I believe that how we feel emotionally affects how we receive the message.  If you do not know the person then the emotional connection needs to be created during the dialogue. This is why sales people try to connect with us emotionally by asking us questions about sports, kids weather, etc.


      This one is simple.  What is in it for me?  There has to be some form of reward or value.

      1st Edition

      2nd Edition

      Categories: Books, Communication Tags: ,

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