Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Talk Talk

I looked at a bottle of lotion today.  I use it often but I read the label today.  It said "20% more than 10 oz. bottle."  I looked at the weight of the bottle and showed 12 oz.  That is 20% more than 10 oz.  No false advertising here, but is it really advertisement worthy?  The bottle doesn't say anything more than this.  The sentence is running across the top of the bottle.  There is no mention of a value - paying for 10 oz. but getting 12 oz.  There is no mention of taking on the standard size lotion bottle.  Nothing but the statement.

My dad used to describe some people as "liking to hear themselves talk."  There wasn't much substance to what someone was saying, but they sure had lots to say.  The only way it made sense for that person to talk so much was that he/she liked the sound of his/her voice.  As weak of a reason as that may be, it just may be the best explanation.

Substance is needed in our conversations.  Too much fluff can fill our dialogues.  We talk about inane things that don't matter and don't help us.  As leaders, do we know what we're saying and why we're saying it?  Is it simply being said because you feel as though something has to be said?  That usually isn't a great reason.  In fact, it might be counter-productive because, first, it might water down anything of substance you do have to share in the future and, second, it might cause you to say more about something than you ought.  The value of communication is a demonstrated leadership quality.  Your team will get what you think about verbal communication when they hear and see what you're doing with it.

The words themselves are not stupid, but rather, not thought through well.  Take for instance a recent political  election commercial.  The woman running for office says that if elected, she would take medicare money from the US government for the state as opposed to the current official who is not.  She makes this point and then says, "and that's the kind of leader I will be."  I scratch my head.  Is taking government medicare money a sign of leadership?  That's the correlation?  Hmmmm.  I'm not convinced.  Sounds like fluff to me.

Simply, as leaders in our companies, we have to be thoughtful about our words.  What is it we really want to communicate?  Focus on that.  Make cohesive dialogue.  Share one point and connect it to the next in a sensible way.  Help others follow your progression.

  1. Know what you want to communicate
  2. Think through how you want to communicate
  3. Clearly share the communication

I know it's simple, but the amount of rhetoric and jargon we slip into can make our necessary communication with our team ineffective and off-putting.  Take the time you need to gather your thoughts and share what you really want to share.  I would really like to hear that communication!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Out of Touch

Positional devaluation is an epidemic.  Perhaps you don’t know what that is.  After all, it is not the lead story on the evening news nor the headline in your favorite newspaper.  For some, it might seem ridiculous and petty, but I assure you, it is not.

Look at the way roles within your company are viewed.  Aren’t some seen as more valuable than others?  I understand that the COO or CFO is an important role and might have a different level of value to the organization, but does that mean that other roles are not valuable?  Too often, we sell new candidates on the stepping stone view of the role they’ve applied for.  We apologize for the role, in essence.  We see the role as less than what someone should settle for.

What kind of message is that?  Do you expect someone to just take the job because you do a Jedi mind trick? (“This isn’t the job you’re looking for. The job offered will do fine.  Move along.”)  With such a poor setup, it’s unlikely that a candidate would accept, and if they do, be assured that it’s just to collect a paycheck while the new employee interviews for other jobs.  Sad and not encouraging, I know, but truthful.

Devaluing a position is a cultural nightmare.  Take, for example, employees who used to do a job such as what I've described.  They feel comfortable to give the “oh, you are the new guy doing this? Ha, good luck!” speech.  I understand the teasing and sometimes it just might showcase the familial spirit of the company.  However, what isn’t okay is to allow the mocking to be a staple of the workday.  Devaluing the job being done is to devalue the person doing the job.

Listen.  For those of who you really know me, you know that I have sensitive moments.  I offer sympathy; I empathize with others.  The devaluing of a job is NOT a sensitivity-thing.  My perspective is not about primarily caring for feelings (although, I am not against that either), but rather it’s about protecting the culture of the company and the “every job is important” attitude.  It cannot just be a cute phrase, but belief in action.

My first on-the-books job was with Friendly’s.  I was a dishwasher.  Not a glamorous job.  I was thrown all kinds of crap and no one said anything to me.  I lasted six weeks.  It wasn’t because I was too good for the job, but because I was alone and made to feel unimportant.  I looked at my job as being less than everyone else’s.  I didn’t like that feeling, but the message was clear.  But think about running that restaurant without clean pots, pans, dishes or glassware.  That job is vital regardless of glamor.  It would be out of touch with business necessity for a company to think otherwise.

So, simply, review those overlooked roles in your organization.  Speak into them.  Now look at those jobs that are devalued intentionally through commentary and jokes.  Fix it.  It’s messaging that must be addressed. 

There is nothing wrong with washing dishes for a living.  There is nothing wrong with packing and shipping boxes for a living.  There is nothing wrong with cutting lawns for a living.  There is nothing wrong with waiting tables for 30 years.  Nothing at all.