Worthy of imitation

Work a little harder when using bald words to communicate. Use Bill Jensen's CLEAR model.

Texting, emailing, slacking (a communication thing now--right?)... all these channels rely on typed words with no vocal nuance. This lean messaging can also lead to being confused and getting ignored. 

Behaviorally-focused messages can be patterned for success. Okay, let's C.L.E.A.R. a message, as designed by Bill Jensen, author of Simplicity and many other books and tools.

The message could be an email, or a multi-part text, or even some meeting notes after the face-to-face. 

  1. For the first sentence or phrase, communicate how the message is CONNECTED to what the recipient does, or wants to be doing, or to accomplish: "Since I know you're working on the ____ project..." When we start this way, we are making the message more relevant, and the recipient more attentive. We are answering the "why do I care?" question. 

  2. The second part is to provide a LIST of actions... It can be a one-item list. Here are the things the recipient could do to realize their goals in Point 1 (see above). It's a very good idea to make this 'list' either a set of steps or a single boldface command. 

  3. Set the EXPECTATIONS. Share what results they can expect from taking action. What does the recipient's success look like? Paint a picture. Say, "if you follow my suggestion, you'll see progress in...." As David Allen would say "what does success feel like?"

  4. Point out the ABILITY of the recipient(s) to achieve their goals. The LIST of actions you provided in step 2 must be things that the recipient is empowered or capable of doing. Remind the recipient they have the power, whether it's formal authority, talent or even just persistence. (If during this step you realize the recipient does not have the capability to execute the list you provided in Point 2, stop and reconsider your message.) 

  5. Close the message by clarifying the RETURN (or ROI: return on investment). Spell out "what's in it for me, as the recipient of this message." Show your faith in their capabilities and how you will rejoice in their success. They need to know they can get what they want. This point is often referred to as the WIIFM: the "What's in it for me?" point.

    In many cases, you should let them know that success is not the only good outcome. If they can explain all the causes and issues that obstructed success, and they know that sharing this information will benefit them, then their shared knowledge may benefit many, many more people. 

This communication model has been invaluable to me over the years. It doesn't always make things happen, but when it doesn't work, I usually end up with clear feedback. And I'm always sure that I'm not wasting my time or someone else's energy. 

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Have you heard of the 'amplification' tactic for promoting women's ideas?

Recently, I was in a morning round table meeting where new people were trickling in but not chiming in. After watching for awhile, I interrupted a speaker who'd had the floor for several minutes to ask one of the newcomers to introduce herself. The speaker didn't appear to be annoyed. We need to help people speak up and get credit. This amplification idea is so powerful. 

Adam Grant: Wondering (Excerpt from June 2017, Question 1)

We all need to promote our work. I’ve learned in my research that successful givers are ambitious for others and ambitious for themselves. When you produce something you think is interesting or important, share it with people who might benefit from it. If that’s the only thing you share, it looks like self-promotion. But if you regularly distribute and recognize other people’s work too, there’s no backlash. You’re known as someone who has useful knowledge and is generous in sharing it.

That leads me to my favorite advice on this dilemma, which is to gather a group of supportive colleagues who will work together to make sure you each get the credit you deserve. A group of women did this brilliantly in the Obama administration: they called it amplification. Let’s amplify that.

Washington Post: White House women want to be in the room where it happens 2016-Sep-13 by Juliet Eilperin 

When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.

“We just started doing it, and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing,” said one former Obama aide who requested anonymity to speak frankly. Obama noticed, she and others said, and began calling more often on women and junior aides.

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Using micro-goals to stay on track toward our goals: the big picture is our enemy.

"Chunking," or breaking down a project into micro-goals, has long been recognized in productivity coaching. However, it's also extremely important in motivating co-workers. We tend to spend too much time on the vision and not enough time kicking around little ideas to move the project down the road. Recognizing the success of every micro-goal is vital. I love Scordo's quote... 

The big picture is actually your enemy.

Scordo.com: How To Achieve Goals: Micro-Goal It And Keep It Simple by Vincent Scordo

Now, I don’t have a window into Federer’s brain (only he knew what he was thinking on Sunday) but his keen ability to simply win the tennis match; namely, keep the ball between the lines until your opponent makes an error or misses a shot is a superb practical life skill.  Here are a few others that may help you achieve a few goals of your own (albeit maybe less impressive than 16 Grand Slam tennis championships):
1. Tune out unimportant variables.  When you want to achieve something specific it’s not good to act or think philosophically.  The big picture is actually your enemy.
2. Don’t change your style or approach if it works most of the time.  For example, if you’re a good saver and have had success with investing in low risk vehicles (like a traditional savings account, CD, bond, etc.) don’t begin buying large quantities of securities because the current trend is big returns on your money.  In the long run, you’ve probably picked an approach that has worked and switching tactics will not get you closer to a particular goal.
3. Surround yourself with people who think like you.
4. Avoid panic until the last possible moment.  Staying calm is a great life skill; in addition to preserving your blood pressure and heart the ability to maintain a calm mind helps you stay relaxed and avoid pressure and a muddled perspective (remember you want laser like clarity on your end goal).  Having said the above, I do advocate letting the steam escape at some point.
5. Prepare.  If you know how to do it and have proved to yourself that you can achieve a goal then doing it again is a matter of being well prepared.
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What other firms refuse to learn from Costco

Why aren't the benefits of better compensation common knowledge among business owners? 

Harvard Business Review: Inequality isn't just due to market forces, 2017-Mar-30 by Adam Cobb

For example, Costco has long been recognized as a “high road” employer that pays above market wages, offers good benefits, and provides workers opportunities for advancement. Despite these significant labor investments, from 2007 to the end of 2016, Costco’s stock price increased over 200%, far outpacing the overall growth of the S&P 500 (58%) and that of competitors like Walmart (45%) and Target (26%), which is known to pay workers low wages and offer relatively meager employee benefits. Of course, this is just one example, and there are a number of reasons why these firms’ performance varied during this period. But research shows that firms that pay workers higher wages, provide better benefits, and offer predictable working hours attract workers who are more productive and more committed to their employers. And improved worker productivity and lower turnover frequently more than offsets these firms’ higher labor rates.

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We gotta find better ways to decide public policy. Maybe this will help...

The fact that polling is broken and easy answers are so infernally popular has me looking for ways to improve decision making. Maybe this will help...

Nature: A solution to the single-question crowd wisdom problem, 2017-Jan-26, by Drazen Prelec, H. Sebastian Seung, and John McCoy

Here we propose the following alternative to a democratic vote: select the answer that is more popular than people predict. We show that this principle yields the best answer under reasonable assumptions about voter behaviour, while the standard ‘most popular’ or ‘most confident’ principles fail under exactly those same assumptions. Like traditional voting, the principle accepts unique problems, such as panel decisions about scientific or artistic merit, and legal or historical disputes. The potential application domain is thus broader than that covered by machine learning and psychometric methods, which require data across multiple questions. 

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Gaining trust by writing newsletters in a specific way... advice from Michael Katz

In the years I've been reading Michael Katz's newsletters on newsletters, I've laughed and learned a great deal. His chatty style is always leading to a easy-to-remember point. I certainly feel that I know him well. 

When we write in concrete, relatable details, then we create a connection.

Blue Penguin Development: Do Your Prospects Trust You? Try This, 2016-Sep-23 by Michael Katz

The best advice I could ever give you about writing in a more authentic way is simply this: Write to readers as if you already know them well.

When you include specific references to recent events, they’ll feel like you actually do.

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How telling better stories can make us happier

We are hearing more and more reasons to develop our storytelling skills. This article includes quite a few helpful tips. 

Wall Street Journal: Why Good Storytellers Are Happier in Life and in Love, 2016-July-4 by Elizabeth Bernstein

Tell stories of the past, present and future. Highlighting great memories or successes that you had together in the past helps you reconnect. Narrating recent events that have happened to you, or telling a story about a challenge you are facing, helps illuminate what matters to you. Weaving a story of a future event as you’d like it to happen—a vacation, a child’s wedding, the dance at your 60th anniversary party—can help you visualize what you want for your relationship.

Include your emotions. Show, don’t tell. (“She was wearing a red silk dress and my palms got sweaty.”) “Details can unlock the emotional truths that until now were never spoken out loud,” says Lauren Dowden, a social worker at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, as well as a Second City alumna and teacher. She runs a storytelling group for couples where one partner has Alzheimer’s.

Conversely, good stories avoid certain things—cliché, digression, saying too much, not saying enough, lack of attention to the audience and preachiness

Practice. Storytelling is an art form, like playing the piano or creating a garden, says Dr. Winter, the literary critic. “You can start with something simple and it might be satisfying, but it might not be as good or as true as it can be.”

Dr. Winter suggests the three Rs: Reflect on the events. Refine what they meant to you. Read. “Learn from the masters,” she says. 

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