Monday, July 19, 2010

The Approachable Leader’s Handbook of Being Heard, Vol. 3

For those of you human beings out there (and I think you know who you are) here’s a quick list of assumptions.

You want to be:

Valued. Needed. Wanted.
Affirmed. Appreciated. Accepted.
Respected. Recognized. Remembered.
Taken seriously. Given a chance. Part of something that matters.

IN SHORT: You want to be heard.

Because if you’re not – if people can’t hear you – they can’t follow you.

And if they can’t follow you, you lose.

Today we’re going to explore another selection of practices (read part one and part two here!) to help you be heard by the people who matter most: Employees, staff, customers, kids, volunteers – whomever you serve.

1. Approach people as audience members. Not customers. Not employees. Not volunteers. Not associates. Audience members. When you see people in that context, you’re forced to transform your message from a petition into a performance.

But not in that annoying, always-on, doing-shtick, Robin Williams kind of performance. You’re method acting. The character you’re playing is you. Which, if you know who you are, is the easiest character in the world to play.

Remember: The word audience simply means, “The persons reached.” Who’s sitting in your audience, and on what basis do you claim their attention?

2. Risk being real. Honesty is so rare – it’s become remarkable. As a writer and speaker, I’m constantly amazed at how easy it is to have your voice heard, simply by telling your truth. Notice I said “your” truth – not “thee” truth. Huge difference.

One is unarguable – the other is unprovable. And I’m not talking about “authenticity,” or whatever other twenty-five cent lifeless buzzword currently pollutes the professional development lexicon.

This is about keeping rein on your individuality, integrating all of your polarities into a unified whole, then sharing that music with the people who matter. How are you branding your honesty?

3. Be frictionless. When people ask me about the genre of my writing, I like to say, “Non-friction.” What I mean by this is a message that’s findable, readable, breathable, digestible, memorable and actionable. That’s how I write. Material that an impatient, thirty-something entrepreneur like myself would actually sit down and read.

Your challenge is to think about how much friction your message contains. For example:

If it’s not easy to access, it’s not findable.

If it’s not somewhat grammatically and structurally well written, it’s not readable.

If people can’t quickly scan it and get the gist without their eyes bleeding, it’s not breathable.

If the small portions don’t go down smoothly and you just puke one long run-on sentence for two pages about an inconsequential topic, it’s not digestible.

If the ideas don’t cause people to react emotionally in some way, it’s not memorable.

And if the concepts can’t be executed with practical application through a mindset of, “I believe this! I can do this! I want to try this!” it’s not actionable.

How frictionless is your message?

4. Express yourself three-dimensionally. I recently watched a documentary called A Sense of Life. It’s the first authorized film about the life and work of the controversial Russian-born author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand.

What moved me most during the movie was Rand’s approach to audience questioning. Known for staying on stage hours after her lecture was scheduled to be over, Ayn wouldn’t just answer people’s questions. She would also take the time to learn what was in her readers’ minds. She would answer their questions, point out the errors that led to those questions, suggest the new set of questions that would come tomorrow, as well as use each question as a springboard to another explanation.

And as a result, her voice, her message and her life altered the philosophical landscape forever. Lesson learned: When you penetratingly come straight at everything people say – your voice is always heard. How askable are you?

5. Avoid being met with rolled eyes. Rolled eyes lead to closed ears. Before sharing your next message, set up a deliberate interruption attempt to disprove your own ideas. Go counterintuitive for a few minutes. Ask yourself, “Will this start or stop dialogue?”

If your latter is the answer, rework it. Silence is the enemy. Messages with massive impact aren’t just mind-boggling – they’re heart boggling. Make sure you’re aimed at the right organ. Like John Maeda expressed in The Laws of Simplicity, “Good art makes your head spin with questions.”

That’s right: Your message is art. Get used to it or get out of the business. How provocative are you willing to be?

6. Consciously pursue the unexpected. There’s a reason your people aren’t being reached: Every other message they receive during the day is just another boring, overextended piece of corporate communication they delete immediately. At best, peruse remorsefully.

Fortunately, you have an opportunity to positively break people’s patterns. To respectfully violate their expectations. And to creatively upset their schemas. All you have to do is ask, “On a scale of 1-10, how dramatically different is this message from the same recycled drivel people have already chosen to tune out?” If you score less than a five, change it.

That’s it. That’s how to be less predictable. Do this, and you’ll find that the courage to be different is the voice that is heard loud and clear. Unless you live in communist China. Can’t help you there. Is your message nothing but an unremarkable skin on an outdated skeleton?

REMEMBER: If they can’t hear you, they can’t follow you.

And if they can’t follow you, you lose.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What's the cost of being unheard?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS...
For the list called, "22 Unexpected Ways to Help People," send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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