Cranking Up the Volume

Greetings.  Communication.  In my work with companies across a wide range of industries poor "communication" is regularly cited as one of the biggest and most perplexing challenges.  And one of the greatest barriers to improved collaboration, innovation and business success.

"We don't communicate well," is a common refrain.  Or, "We don't communicate often enough."  Or, "We're rarely on the same page."  Or, "We seem to be getting mixed messages."

All because communication isn't clear, engaging and consistent across the organization.  And, in the face of these concerns, many companies simply decide to increase the volume of their communication as though this will resolve the problem or problems. 

The challenge of communicating effectively became even clearer on Friday night when our daughter Sara and I went to a concert at the 9:30 Club in Washington. We went to this popular stop on the national music circuit to hear Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit–a southern rock musician who is currently on tour promoting his newest album titled "Here We Rest."  While he's probably not a household name for most of my blog readers, his well-written and at times edgy songs about home, life, relationships and returning from war might be of interest–and you can check them out on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon.com or his website.

The lead act was James McMurtry. He's the son of author Larry McMurtry (of "Lonesome Dove" and "Terms of Endearment" fame) and an artist who has had a long and successful career writing and singing songs with real meaning.  So I was certainly open to hearing him and his band.  That is, until the first song began to play.  Because that's when their electrified guitars and basses, pounding drums and cranked up amplifiers made it almost impossible for me to understand a single word he was singing during his 75-minute set.  Though it was fun to see his loyal fans sing along with great energy and conviction (fueled in part by the availability of beer).  

And it dawned on me that this was how many organizations communicate.  Too loud and too unclear.  And with only a few insiders really getting the message and the meaning.  Add to this the fact that very few performers or companies ever ask their audiences if they can hear or understand.  Even though these are simple questions that would enable them to adjust the volume and make everyone more engaged and more likely to spread the word.

And when Jason Isbell and his band finally came on stage after 12:30 a.m. it was only slightly better.  But since I knew the words to many of his songs I was at least able to sing along with interest.

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We win in business and in life when we communicate clearly a message that matters so that everyone in the audience can hear, understand and get engaged.  And when we never stop going to rock concerts–with earplugs.

Cheers and have a communicative week ahead!

P.S.  I downloaded several of James McMurtry's songs on iTunes today and, sans amplifiers, they're definitely worth a listen.

The First Day of School

Greetings.  It's the end of August and most school systems across the U.S. and the rest of the world have already begun their new year.  It's a time of great hope and anticipation as students of all ages meet new teachers, take on new subjects, make new friends and find their clear voices in a wide range of new and exciting "extracurricular" activities.  And, hopefully, expand their horizons as learners, thinkers, creators, innovators, collaborators and individuals in an annual ritual filled with unlimited possibilities.

All based on the simple notion that "change" is a good thing.  Changing teachers, changing subjects, changing classmates, changing lockers, changing approaches to learning and sometimes even changing schools.  All intended, in an ideal world, to unlock the real genius in every student.

And then when our days in school end, we enter a world that lacks in this regular commitment to change.  This annual ritual of thoughtfully stirring the pot.  That instead views change as a bad thing or a necessary evil.  The former embodied by the plodding and incremental nature of change that occurs in most companies–companies committed to maintaining business as usual for as long as possible. And the latter embodied by companies that try to improve their fortunes through a series of abrupt and often radical changes–determined to shake things up in the hope that a sudden and severe burst of "different" will produce a way different and better result.  Different strategy.  Different leaders.  A different organization with different rules and incentives. 

With neither approach appreciating the power of regular and thoughtful change that mirrors the magic of the first day of school.

So this year when you see students and busses on their way to school, why not try to imagine what it would be like to begin a new and more compelling year at your company or organization.  To engage your employees with just the right amount of exciting and nurturing change.  To create your very own annual ritual of energizing your workplace and all of its promise.

School bus

We win in business and in life when we make change the natural order of things.  And when we realize that, at our very best, we will always be students filled with possibilities.

Cheers!

The Magic of Fiber

Greetings.  I've been thinking about fiber a lot lately, and how it can help us to lead longer, healthier, and more productive lives.  Not that it is a silver bullet, or that it can single-handedly atone for a lifetime of less than healthy eating.  But it is certainly part of the equation–by slowing the rate that sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, making our intestines and colons work better, and keeping us regular.  Pretty cool stuff, I guess, especially if you are a gastroenterologist.  And, I admit, it's a funny topic to bring up in a conversation or write about in a business blog.  Now if this were a blog about diet, nutrition, or healthful cooking it would be another story.  Yet I would be remiss if I didn't encourage each and every one of you to eat plenty of whole grain breads, high-fiber cereals, beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and even brown rice.  After all, I'd like my readers to be as healthy as possible.  And I'd be really happy if all of you were more regular (readers that is).

Fiber One Picture 

But why talk about fiber here?  Is it because we often succeed in business by keeping our customers "healthier" and by doing things that aren't very exciting to talk about or promote?  We write manuals that explain how our products really work and how to get the greatest value out of them.  We provide regular service "check-ups" that take time now in order to prevent greater down time or expense later.  We train their new employees so they can hit the ground running.  We answer questions and provide the latest updates.  We stock and ship replacement parts.  All in the name of keeping them and their "systems" running smoothly.  But what if we could do these things even more brilliantly and with greater value?  What if these "daily vitamin requirements" could be provided in a way that strengthened our bond with the customer and gave us a real competitive advantage?  And what if we could engage our employees in the relentless pursuit of being geniuses at the very fiber of our businesses?

We win in business by ensuring the health and viability of those we serve.  How will you make that happen in the months ahead when it seems everyone is catching a cold or the flu?  

Cheers and have a deliciously healthy and fiber-filled weekend!