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Archive for February, 2010

Introduction

This is the first in a series of posts that I hope will take the reader on a journey of self-discovery and growth.

I’d like to start the journey with a humorous but powerful message that was created by the folks at Monster.com

The message from this poignant, “tongue-in-cheek” commercial is pretty clear to me; no-one (well, mostly no-one?) intentionally “aims low” when it comes to their aspirations; they just get trapped by circumstance. The solution that Monster is pitching here is that you “need to seek out better opportunities and then things will be better”. Frankly, I have a different view on what the solution should be. For me the solution is not just “look for a different job”, but rather, start the process to assess WHO YOU ARE, then decide WHO YOU WANT TO BE, not just WHAT CAREER you want to have. I believe that it’s all about understanding yourself and changing or enhancing those parts of you that are holding you back, so that you can “aim higher” AND actually hit the target you’re aiming at.

I’m sure the folks at Monster.com who undoubtedly spent a fortune on creating this very clever commercial would beg to differ with me on this point, but hey; my blog, my view!

Assuming that you agree with me, I’d like to propose a quest. The quest is to uncover the underlying factors that make us who we are, and what we need to do to go from aspiring to grab “the brass ring” to actually taking it. I’m calling this quest “Growing Your Inner Wolf”, and hopefully if you’ve read my “So why wolves?” page, you understand that I think that the icon of the wolf embodies “the right stuff” when it comes to how to live, play, and work. Of course, every wolf (person) is different, with different degrees of “the right stuff”, and potentially some down-right deficiencies that need to be corrected.

In order to know how to get to “THERE”, you’ve got to start with “I’M HERE”, otherwise you’re bound to take a very circuitous route to your destination, or worse, wander aimlessly until you lose interest in getting there at all. It all starts with SELF-AWARENESS.

However, before you start any journey (especially this one), you’ll need to pack some essentials to take with you (for those “Boy Scouts” among you, the motto “Be prepared!” has always seemed to be a fundamental truth to me). In this case, the essentials are definitions of what I call “core words”. Without a common understanding of these words, we are destined to misinterpret some of the fundamental concepts that I’d like to discuss in this series.

Unfortunately, the length of this post is already approaching an “attention numbing” size, so I will continue (or is it begin?) the journey in the next installment…I know, I know, I’m such a tease, but I did say this was the Introduction, right?

© 2010 John C. Rea and nothingbutwolves.wordpress.com

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For my first “official posting” I think I’ll start with the basics….It all comes down to communication. If you can’t effectively communicate your ideas, concerns, emotions, or whatever, you’ll never be able to get others to “come along for the ride”. The better you communicate what’s in your head, the more likely the outcome will be what you were looking for.

Communication happens many ways, but almost all of them use words whether in the form of pictures (which substitute for words) or the written or spoken words themselves. Of course, there are exceptions like body language (which is subject to the base emotions and experiences of the sender AND receiver and prone to extreme misinterpretation – probably a subject for another posting).

For now, I’d like to concentrate the thrust of this post towards the general, written form of communication, but before getting to “the rules” (or guidelines if you prefer), we should talk a bit about the medium that you will be using to communicate with. The two main categories for the purposes of this posting are “published” and “presented”.

When publishing, whether via email, white paper, blog, etc., you need to be very purposeful about what is written. These documents are read “privately” with no room for give-and-take conversational flow until AFTER it is read. You need to be very clear about your messaging or you can pay the price of misinterpretation which can result in under-reaction, or over-reaction. These publications can vary in length and are as detailed or abbreviated as deemed appropriate to the message you’re attempting to convey.

When presenting, you have the added luxury of adding “spoken words” to your previously written ones. Of course, you still have to “keep it on point” since your audience and the allotted time-slot will dictate the cadence for you if you don’t. With presentations, you do have the option of writing less and talking more, but at the end of the day, “the rules” still apply, and you’ve still got to get your message across.

  1. Know your audience
    • What do they want to know? – first and foremost on the list…if you don’t get this right, you’re screwed!
    • What do you NEED to tell them? – get to the point(s) in as straight forward a manner as possible or you will “lose them”
    • How do they “listen”? – are they picture people?, wordy people?, “bullets, with verbal elaboration” people?, spreadsheet people?, or something else!
    • How do they make decisions? – based on data?, emotion?, dollars and cents (which is often a combination of data AND emotion)
  2. Decide what you want as an outcome(s)
    • Are you looking for a decision(s)? – make sure you ask for it (them), along with deadlines and consequences for bad decisions, or worse…no decisions!
    • Are you looking to share information? – sharing for the sake of sharing still needs to have a purpose, otherwise you’re wasting YOUR energy and THEIR time
    • Are you looking for support? – asking for help requires a convincing argument, or you’ll wind up “doing it on your own”
    • Are you looking for action(s) to take place? – identify specific individuals (avoid vague group actions and target a single point of contact instead) along with appropriate time-lines
    • Are you looking for “all of the above”? – then make sure that you articulate each point appropriately and KEEP THEM SEPARATE!
  3. Be clear – “Say what you mean, and mean what you say”
    • Use “commonly understood” language – if you’re unsure about the audience’s level of understanding, define the terms and the concepts in enough detail to ensure everyone “get’s it”
    • Be succinct – avoid “colorful” prose unless you’re “selling something”, writing poetry or creating blog postings 😉
    • Separate out fact from opinion – acknowledge that you might be pulling some of the information “out of your butt” if you don’t have “substantive data” to back it up
    • Separate out data from conclusions – it’s easy to mistakenly mix the two together, always keep conclusions separate
    • Be aware of your “tone” – we often write with “tone” whether consciously or unconsciously, make sure that your inflection isn’t sending the wrong message (“Listen with the ears of your audience”)
    • Summarize, summarize, summarize – either start or end with your top “takeaways”, don’t let the audience draw their own conclusions without YOUR guidance
  4. Solicit AND embrace feedback (hopefully BEFORE OFFICIALLY Publishing OR Presenting)
    • Perception IS Truth – unless otherwise negotiated, this is always true!
    • You’re right, until shown that you’re wrong – be open to embrace new “truths”, but don’t dismiss your own thoughts without open, honest dialog about the merits of “the new truth”, then draw your own conclusions
    • Acknowledge the inputs – accept them as new truths, reject them with an explanation, modify them and make them yours, but don’t ignore them! No-one likes to be asked for their opinion if it’s not “listened to”

If you’re interested in a deeper dive into this topic, please send me your comments and I will work-up another posting or two on the specific items that you’re most interested in.

© 2010 John C. Rea and nothingbutwolves.wordpress.com

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An acknowledgement

Before I start down the path of publicly sharing all of the “thought marbles” that have been rolling around in my head seemingly forever, I feel compelled to acknowledge someone who can be BLAMED for setting this Blog in motion…his name is Mark.

Mark is the kind of guy who is not only a good friend and colleague, but he’s an absolute PAIN IN THE ASS as well (said with deep affection, just in case it wasn’t clear). He has been known to embody characteristics of each of the 5 Icons that I’ve outlined on my “So why wolves?” page, although he is far more prone to behave like a wolf or cat than the rest (yes Mark, if you’re reading this, you DO occasionally scurry around like a chicken! :-P). With all that said, he has proven that he has the wisdom, insight, and fortitude to convince this old, well-scarred wolf that he was wrong about how he was looking at his life’s work.

So why am I acknowledging him, and why should you care? It’s quite simple really. We all need people in our lives who encourage us, press our buttons, question us, laugh with us, soul search with us, and in general, allow us to ask ourselves “why not?” instead of “why should I?”. For the past two years (more or less), Mark has done all those things, and has helped me realize that the “hairball” of a book that I’ve been trying to write for many years was never going to happen unless I just started to WRITE IT DOWN. Never underestimate the “Knowing, Doing gap” (I’ll save the details for a later post). Sometimes we are too close to the problem to effectively execute what we KNOW is the right thing to do.

The fear of not having all of the answers had been keeping me from writing ANY OF IT down on paper (not to mention on the web). I’ve been teaching and executing the ideas for years in the workplace, but I felt that if I wrote them down for “the masses”, they needed to be “perfect”. While I’ve never sought perfection from anyone, when it came to my “hairball”, I could accept nothing less from myself. Mark truly helped me break down the stupidity of that irrational argument, and I am forever in his debt for the “slap in the head”.

Thanks Mark….this is all your fault! 😉

© 2010 John C. Rea and nothingbutwolves.wordpress.com

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