Homework in January‏

Listening to a call to prayer (adhan) while watching Scooby Doo reruns in Arabic sitting in a hotel room as I waited for the airport taxi was one of the more unique days of my extended Christmas season. I hope your holiday was relaxing, rejuvenating and rewarding.

Working in December with a mixed group of people in the Middle East, helped by two professional translators, really reaffirmed for me the nuance of communication. In addition to bouncing between languages and dealing with words that don’t have a counterpart, the differences between what people say and others hear plus all of the cultural and non-verbal cues was a priceless lesson in the concept of getting lost in translation. It was challenging and oodles of fun.

So most of this month’s newsletter is inspired in some way by last month’s experience. I hope you find something useful. Here’s to 2015, may it translate into everything you’re hoping for.

Je Suis Charlie


First, Getting Your House in Order  

Most often, the job that I’m hired to do is to help someone engage or communicate with people on the outside. Fact is, getting all of their internal people on the same page is almost always Job #1.

Most organizations are terrible at communicating with their own folks and that’s got to be fixed. It’s the beginning of a new year and a good time for self evaluation, so you might consider the following. This is one of the simplest, six-point employee communication approaches that I’ve seen in long while.  Don’t skip it:


The tough part, usually, is getting managers to even consider the possibility of a problem. Most often, everyone but the manager knows that a communication, morale and/or a productivity problem exists. Emperors with no clothes may be the most dangerous people of all:


Smart managers who understand how important internal communication is know that pulling their people together to function as a cohesive unit is the real goal:


This newsletter is usually about the words and actions but don’t forget the graphics:


Getting Trusty in 2015  

Keeping with our theme of getting your own house in order moves us to growing internal trust. This goes a step beyond mere good communication…


Here’s a slight twist to the whole subject of trust relative to dealing with criticism. The article points to “friendly fire” and internal criticism, but also works for responding to the kinds of personal attacks that you might get from outside critics:


The people who rage professionally on radio and TV should have another good year. It’s entertaining and cathartic for a lot of folks and that sells advertising. It’s also human nature to look for scapegoats — somebody to blame, but that doesn’t mean it’s smart:


Deliver and Connect  

I get to work for and with some very gifted scientists and technical experts who planned their careers so they don’t have to deal with people and their irrational behaviors. Sometimes, I envy them. But the fact is that almost all successful people learn how to communicate and connect with others well:


There’s a lot of discussion these days about wholesale political attacks being waged on reason, facts and science. There is some truth to that, but at least part of the problem stems from the inability of experts and technocrats to connect with people. The first job is to get people’s attention:


It’s fun to tease engineers about their warmth and cuddliness when it comes to human interaction. Scott Adams of Dilbert fame has made several fortunes from it. But it turns out that there’s actually some science to the reason/empathy disconnect:


And when you finally get people’s attention, here’s what one of the masters did with the opportunity:


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