Communication is about the who

My own arrogance gets in the way of my objectives much more than I would like to admit.

This post will take some time to explain. But if you make the journey with me, I promise that I will make a point ๐Ÿ™‚

Throughout my career and life, a common theme continues to emerge. Yet, I always keep doing exactly what keeps causing me grief. And even knowing that today, I am not sure that I will really embrace the change.

In high school, I was in speech and debate. I was pretty good at it too. My real ability was to be able to BS. Give me a topic and watch me ramble on about items that were like the topic but not really the topic. I competed in two different categories. Both were limited prep speech processes. One was a formal persuasive speed (extemporaneous), the other was informal and more laid back (impromptu). I really loved impromptu. It gave me a lot of joy to talk about fun things of my own interest. The problem was that I wanted all my speeches to be impromptu. It was later in college when I went back as a coach and really saw the difference. My coaches in high school would explain and explain that extemp needed to be very fact based, formal, scripted almost. I always chose to do it my way. This limited me. I did well but never as well as it could have been. Why? I wanted it my way refusing to change my style to what the audience needed.

In college as a chemistry major, there were very different types of methods that I was taught. Quantitative, qualitative, and organic chemistry were very different in their approaches, even in the way they kept lab books and wrote up findings. In a typical me fashion, if I found one way of writing something up that I liked I kept using it. I would just write it like I wanted to. My professors would comment on my writing style and try to guide me. Again, I wanted it my way.

In my first safety job, I would write reports and send emails just like a scientific write up and then wonder why no one read them. I had to have it my way. Eventually, I learned better, but I was slow to learn that lesson (and still am as you will see).

When I began work on my masters in business, I wrote my papers just like a scientific paper. Again, I did good but not great. I had to learn to write based on the topic. A statistical review is (or should be) different from a leadership case study.

In another job, I became interested in safety training. I took on a mentor as part of a company program. I deliberately wanted someone in instructional design. I was paired up with an amazing person, who again, made me focus and reflect on not only what I needed to say but who I was saying it to.

My greatest challenge was my dissertation. It was an APA format paper. During the many, many revisions there were parts of the paper that continually gave grief to my mentor, my committee, the department chair, and multiple editors. I kept wanting to cite safety information as part of the work. From a psychology perspective, it confused those not in the safety field and was very hard to format. I, being a tenured safety person, refused to change that information. Quick sidebar for background: The dissertation format was 5 chapters. Each chapter was reviewed and revised between 2-4 times. My full dissertation of all chapters combined was on revision 11 when it was accepted for publication. What made revision 11 so different? I took out the safety citations that did not add real value to the psychological study. I could have potentially completed the work sooner if I had just not been so stubborn about communicating the way I wanted. What is even worse is that my dissertation was about creating meaning in safety training. The findings pointed to making the information pertinent to the employee. Evidently, I struggle to learn from my own work. ๐Ÿ™‚

Why have a blog? Because I want to communicate the way I want.

That was a really long story to make a simple point. One that I still struggle with everyday. Before your next email, training, talk, or paper take a moment to really consider your audience. Is this what your audience needs to hear? Is it what they expect to hear? Is it something that makes sense to them? Is it meaningful for them? Will it have meaning for them? Are you delivering it in a way that helps them see the meaning in your communication?

Making Success the Focus

Success and failure seem like such simple ideas, but the way that we engage those two terms as safety people and as leaders make a big difference in the way our organization functions. The views in which the leaders take toward success and failure drastically shape the landscape in which we operate. It is a key influencer in work patterns and overall cultural climate. Those that lead have to be aware of how their decisions affect those that are around them. Their methods shape the way that their people will engage issues at the functional level. In safety, it is ever so critical that we are always seeking how we can improve our processes, so that we create methods to protect our people.

Hopefully, the success and failure exercise helped to gain some insight to your team and how they think about those terms. It should have also help to see who is working toward success and who is avoiding failure. Their answers can be very informative in how they perceive their work, your leadership, and the overall culture of the organization. The answers lead to the four categories of the team in regards to failure or success, superstar, accepter, evader, and burnout.

Everyone wants the superstar as part of their team. This is the one who is willing to make a mistake, but not from negligence. They are seeking better knowledge out of their desire to find the most successful route. I recently finished the book by *Amy C Edmonson called โ€œThe Fearless Organization.โ€ In the book, there is a discussion about the types of failure, preventable, complex, and intelligent. Your superstar is making intelligent failures. These are ones categories by โ€œforays into new territory.โ€ They are measuring the risk and taking calculated steps into the unknown for the betterment of the organization.

The superstars are those who are always seeking success. They know through calculated failures and risk that they can learn and improve. As a manager, it a duty to allows these team members to explore and experiment. From my experience, those that create barriers or discourage the process are not usually the direct manager. It will be those that control other facets of the organization. It is our duty to help shield them and assure they get the resources they need to continue excelling in what they do. This is where being a servant leaders is best applied. Be a resource for the superstar and help them feel secure and able to get their best work done.

*Check out the book here from Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2Hfsmo1