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Entries in communication (13)


I Have A Question

You can learn so much by just asking questions:

  • If you are stuck for conversation with someone you just met, start asking them questions.
  • If you are stuck for conversation with someone you know (especially a teenager), start asking them questions.
  • If you are interested in becoming an expert at something, find an expert and start asking questions.  Be sincere.  Pay attention.  Take notes.  Find another expert and repeat.  Continue to repeat.  Look for patterns in their responses and then apply what you have learned.
  • If you really want to get to know someone, make a formal list of questions and talk about your answers together.  Answer your own questions as part of the conversation.  Discuss, debate, agree and/or agree to disagree.  (When my wife and I were first married, we would do this when we would go on road trips together.)
  • If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to admit it and ask for help.  Seek to understand.  It is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.

What questions should you be asking?


Being A Wreckless Ringmaster

Susan Arnold was the first person to lead a global business unit at Proctor and Gamble. In an interview she made a powerful statement: Leaders who don't set priorities can burn out their organization.

When I read her statement I got the picture of a ringmaster running wildly around the rings, shoving one act into a ring only to pull it a few minutes later because they think another one will work better. They just keep performers moving in and out of the rings and rarely take time to discuss the "Why" behind the "What." Performers aren't working at their best, and the audience is certainly not pleased with what they are seeing.

If you are a leader or manager, take this test to see how you're doing communicating what's important to your team. Imagine that a complete stranger were to ask each employee to list the top three priorities they see of the organization-and how their current work correlates with it. What would the results tell you?


The "Other" Skills Of A Good Ringmaster recently had an intriguing article about the Seven Signs You Have Terrible People Skills. The article has some fantastic and somewhat humorous points, but what caught my attention is the concepts of "hard" vs. "soft" skills and how as one grows into higher positions of leadership, the soft skills are the ones that become more critical.

Here's a circus example. The Ringmaster is doing a solid job announcing the acts and keeping things moving. They have strong "hard" skills like organizing, public speaking, etc. During intermission, however, a few small children walk up to the ringmaster and attempt to engage him in conversation. Even though he is 6 feet 3 inches tall he doesn't kneel or attempt to get down to their level. He talks about himself instead of asking the children questions and being interested in them. The result? Instead of the children skipping away with joy about meeting the ringmaster, they leave confused because they aren't seeing the same person they saw during the performance. This ringmaster is weak in "soft" or people skills.

As we say often in training programs, YOU are the ringmaster of your circus. And if your performers or audience seem less than thrilled with your efforts, maybe it's not the technical skill or knowledge that's lacking. Perhaps it's your people skills that need more work if you want to be a better ringmaster of your circus.


What NOT To Talk To Your Ringmaster About

In the past we have posted at least two blogs on phrases you should avoid using when talking to your boss. has posted a good article about the 10 types of conversations you should avoid having with those to whom you report. The list includes:

  • Night life (whether it's partying until all hours or being at home with your family)
  • Religious beliefs (unless you are being asked to do something that violates your spiritual beliefs
  • Political affiliation

There are others which you might find surprising. To read the entire list, click here.


Your Performers Need To See Your Pimples

Okay, cheesy title, but it's true. A study at the University of Massachusetts revealed that individuals are 5 times more likely to lie in email communication versus a face to face conversation. As you can expect, the less physiological or emotional connection one had to the person to whom they were communicating, the more likely they were to lie.

We are huge proponents of building trust with anyone in your life of whom you have expectations. One cornerstone of building that trust is being honest. As the study, shows, that can best be accomplished by talking with someone in real time, in front of them. They may be suspicious of your typed words, but they will have a hard time dispelling the sincerity in your voice and non-verbal language. You will also have the same chance to evaluate their level of honesty.

Even if you can't always have tough discussions face to face, try to choose the next best option. If you were thinking about emailing, call them instead. If a call was your plan and you will be able to see them face to face soon, save it for the real time meeting. Any steps you take to increase the trust people have for you will lead your circus to a better performance.