Practical

Better Communication with Dirty Rhetoric

Do you write? Present? Communicate with other humans? Need to persuade or share a compelling idea? (hint: the answer is “yes”). Read on.

It’s been said, “When Cicero spoke, people marveled. When Caesar spoke, people marched.” That’s how I want to write and present. I don’t want people to like my ideas, I want my ideas to inspire people.

If only… writing and speaking, communicating and persuading, are not easy. The difference between good and great, between marveling at a speech and marching because of it, is often subtle. Learning those nuances has been a bludgeoning task of trial and error for me. Hard knocks and underwhelming responses and I still have a long way to go.

So, I was stupidly, geekily excited to receive a set of Dirty Rhetoric cards in the mail. Yep, that’s actually the name and, no, it doesn’t come from an “adult” themed store. Rather, Peter Watts Paskale (@speak2all), a communications coach and analyst, and Gavin McMahon (@powerfulpoint), a communication and presentation consultant, created a card deck to quickly and easily teach the fundamentals of persuasive communication.

The cards are color coded into four categories – persuasion, scaling, description, and memory – and  each card describes one technique (53 in all). Along with the technique’s name in English and Latin, there are icons showing whether the technique connects to Ethos (belief/ideals/credibility), Logos (consistency/logic), or Pathos (emotions/imagination). Plus, each card has a rating system indicating the difficulty of the technique, a simple description, and two examples. Woof, that’s a lot of info on a card only slightly bigger than an average smart phone.

The instructions include six “games” to help incorporate the techniques into your messaging. For example, Aristotle’s Dilemma has you draw four cards from the color category matching the purpose of your speech (persuasion, description, etc.) and then find ways to incorporate those techniques into your draft. Writer’s Block focuses on learning the techniques and asks you to write a sentence or two, shuffle the cards, draw one from the deck, and apply that card’s technique to your writing. There are also games for four to six plus players.

Today is the first chance I’ve had to really open and look at the deck and I can hardly wait to really dig in. I love the premise of Dirty Rhetoric – a simple, practical way of learning and applying effective persuasive techniques to my writing and speaking.

Peter and Gavin were kind enough to send me a pre-production set for review. If you want to learn more or get your own set, check out the Dirty Rhetoric webpage, follow the #dirtyrhetoric hashtag on social media, or participate in the kickstarter campaign at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/99144298/dirty-rhetoric .

The One Thing Worse Than Buying a Car

Quick. What’s the single most painful purchase process? Gotta be buying car, right? Nope, but you’re on the right track.

Now, buying a car is tremendously painful, I’ll give you that. It’s a big decision and a huge financial commitment. It seems impossible to have a simple transaction without the “I have to talk to the manager” games and even when you have the car negotiated out, the finance person will make your life miserable using techniques banned by the Geneva Convention until you agree to extended warranties, service plans, and maybe a life insurance policy or two. At the end you’re so mentally frazzled, worn down, and desperate for escape that you’ll agree to anything if it means you can go home. It’s hard to imagine any other purchase being so antiquated, cumbersome, and antagonistic. It’s almost as though the entire process was designed from the start to be as difficult as possible – sort of the opposite of Amazon.com’s one-click purchase.

Except, it’s easy to imagine how to make it worse by modeling another process involving a major life decision. Let’s have a bit of fun here.

Note: This was originally published at Performance I Create. Click to read the rest. [Spoiler alert: It’s about recruiting and the candidate experience.]

check the box and move on

checkboxThe other day I heard someone say, “It’s better to do the right thing poorly than the wrong thing well.” This made me stop. Do something poorly? Blasphemy! Yet…

So many of the things we measure in business (and in life) make no distinction on whether our actions are focused on the right or the wrong things. Only: 1) whether or not we’ve accomplished them; and 2) how well we accomplished them.

Check the box and move on. Don’t bother to consider whether the actions helped or hurt, moved us forward or held us back. Focus on quality, not usefulness. Check the box and move on regardless of whether there was a different action – a better action – we could have taken.

Check, check, check.

People ask us how our day was. We say, “Busy.” We don’t say, “Productive” or “Effective” or “It was bumpy but we’ve made some good strides in the right direction.”

It makes me wonder how much time we spend focused on doing the wrong thing well. Measuring whether something is done is so much easier than measuring if it was right or the best thing to do. So we don’t worry about it.

Nope. Just check the damn box and move on.

success secret? (not really)

There are all sorts of books and blogs about the “Secrets of $uccess”. Sadly, they tend to overcomplicate things or make it sound like success is outside the reach of most people, or attainable only through the authors 10 step program. Yet, as I look around, one thing that really sets people apart in their careers (and lives) is an insistence on doing things right. Very few set out to do things wrong, but most seem to strive to do “just kinda ok enough” (that’s a technical term). The number of people striving to do things right is so small that they immediately stand out. Be that person.

To be clear… Right isn’t a moral term. Right doesn’t mean perfect. Right isn’t “my way”. Right is not a generational issue. Right has nothing to do with position in the organization.

Doing things right means:

  • Holding yourself to a higher standard. It’s making decisions and taking actions with the intention of exceed the standards given versus doing just enough to not get fired.
  • Correcting things as soon as you notice they are incorrect or below standard. Mistakes happen, things get overlooked, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out like you expected. That’s a given to living on planet Earth. The bigger question is do you fix it?
  • Making decisions. There is such a difference in outcomes between making a conscious decision based on understanding and weighing the pros and cons of a situation and a “decision” made by not doing anything until it’s too late. It’s one thing to intentionally choose to do something at a bare minimum standard because you decide to focus your time and energy on higher priority items and quite another when do something at a bare minimum standard because you’re lazy or simply don’t care.
  • Accepting (embracing) responsibility for your outcomes. People striving to do things right rarely get caught up in playing the victim, blaming others, or using convenient or glib excuses. This rarely works in the long term and often does nothing more than damage your reputation.
  • Asking questions, seeking feedback, and finding ways to improve.

In short, “right” is simply caring about the outcome. There’s no secret to it. Nothing mystical, esoteric, or complicated. No system or program. Just caring.

Ken Blanchard said it so well: “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.

time to talk

I am a big believer in leadership development classes, workshops, and seminars. I’ve witnessed (and experienced) so many of those “light bulb moments” where there is suddenly a huge shift in thinking that changes a leader’s approach, and results.

BUT. I wonder how much of it is the content of the class and how much of it is something else. Good content is important, yet the magic happens in the spaces between the tools and concepts. The class provides crucial time to think, reflect, and discuss. It gives time away from phones, email, customers, and employees and becomes a catalyst for dialog and insight that doesn’t happen on its own.

The class gets people together and gives them space and time to talk. The information, theories, tools, and approaches gives context and content for reflection, dialog, and sharing. The conversation lets people know that they are not alone in their challenges, and leading is sometimes difficult and lonely and sometimes a bit scary for everyone, and there are solutions.

It’s amazing what happens when leaders drop the charade of invulnerable infallibility and get human. Suddenly, there’s so much to teach and so much to learn. Building trust, exploring ideas, sharing and learning from each other’s joy and heartache doesn’t happen quickly. It takes time before the conversation gets deep enough and rich enough to matter.

Time that no one thinks they have – until they take it.

What thinks you?

 

the hidden in plain sight competitive advantage

Business is conducted through humans, by humans, for humans. Humans invent, create, produce, market, sell goods and services to other humans. Business success is determined by how well the humans at the company meet the needs of the humans who are buying compared to the other options available.

Oversimplified, but reasonable enough. If I need a new mountain bike, the bicycle company that best meets my needs for price vs quality vs value vs features vs warranty vs availability vs etc is the one that I will give money to. If there are enough people with the same needs then that business will do better than their competition. Simple enough, no?

Well, no.

How the humans who are your (internal or external) customers FEEL about your products and services is much, much more important than what they THINK. [This is the single most significant line I have written in this blog ever. Period. Think about it. Internalize it. Apply it to your job.]

Us humans are emotional, illogical, and irrational. We are pleasure seeking pain avoiders. We almost always act in what we believe is our best interest or will at least what will make us happy in the moment. We almost always act in ways that support our self-identity and often put who we think we are ahead of our long-term best interests. Us humans are individualistic and driven by group dynamics. We want to stand out by fitting in and be just as unique as everyone else. Status matters – a lot – and we put considerable effort into creating and maintaining our position in our world. We cling to ritual and tradition more than progress and reason. We fear change yet get bored easily and constantly seek new and different. In short, we are a gloriously gooey, sloppy, contradictory, confusing, paradox.

Business gets done through, by, and for humans. If that’s true, then our skills for understanding the driving psychology of ourselves and others, communicating our needs and concerns while understanding and empathizing with those of  others, and leading and influencing  others (and ourselves) are paramount to long-term success. Those ill named “soft” skills are foundational to business success, individual success, and human success, yet are some of the least appreciated, studied, or taught skills.

If we were consistently rational and logical, understanding ourselves and others would be PRIORITY #1 for every individual, community, organization, and business. It’s not. There is a competitive advantage to be found wherever there is a gap between what’s available and what’s needed.

It’s worth repeating: How the humans who are your (internal or external) customers FEEL about your products and services is much, much more important than what they THINK.

Use that information to your advantage.

 

don’t wish it were easier

It seems like every time we start to get caught up, something happens. If only we could get a good year or two, then we could get ahead.” I’ve heard statements like this from several leaders recently. Although I understand and empathize with the uncertainty and pain and fear they are wrestling with, I am left thinking, “so what?”

Worrying about all the outside factors causing me to lose will ultimately cause me to lose for several reasons:

1. “If onlys…” are a distraction. It’s a drain to put time, emotion, and energy into worrying about things I can’t control, or even influence. The economy, conflicts around the world, the government, the weather, changing social norms, shifting demographics, etc. are what they are. If I can change it, change it. If I can influence it, influence it. Otherwise, I can only accept it and move on OR focus on what I need to change about myself to better deal with the circumstances.

2. Regardless of where I am today, this is the only starting point I have. Things are not going to suddenly be different and the world doesn’t owe me anything. That said, I have easy access to clean water, food, shelter, medical care, and transportation. I can call up an aeon’s worth of information instantly and communicate globally on my computer. There is due process of law, minimal corruption, free education, guaranteed human rights and individual freedoms, and a democratic system that seems to work ok. People tell me how miserable the economy is, but someone is buying all those smart phones and tablet computers. Perfect? Not a bit. But I don’t have to look back too far in time or too far across a map to realize just how good I (and anyone reading this) have it. Life may get scary, uncertain, and overwhelming, but if I had to choose a place and time to be at today, I could do much, much worse.

3. If the world were easier for me it would also be easier for my competition so I wouldn’t be any further ahead. Sure, it’s easier to run downhill, but if we’re all running downhill, so what?. If you’ve ever been an endurance athlete, there is a state of mind where you take solace in knowing that if it’s difficult for you and you’re hurting, it’s at least as bad for your competition. Some even see the difficulty as a source of competitive advantage and look forward to the brutal courses and bad weather. They know that many of their competition will have mentally given up even before the start. So, as I look at my life, career, and business today, I can join in all the worry and complaining or I can accept that it’s difficult, appreciate the challenge, and smile every time I hear leaders from other companies complain because I know they are believing their own excuses and mentally handing the race to me. The worse they think they have it, the easier they make it for me.

4. I can complain about the challenges, situations, and general state of life OR I can figure out who I need to be and the skills I need to develop to get where I want to go GIVEN the challenges, situations, and general state of life.

I’m going to wrap up today with my favorite quote from Jim Rohn:

Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems; wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenges; wish for more wisdom. 

Your thoughts?

two secrets for better public speaking in 5 minutes or less

[Ok, just had to use an infomercial style title this morning. Seemed like a fun way to kick off a Saturday]

Public speaking is a crucial career (and life) skill that requires practice and persistence before most people feel comfortable. And, no matter how good we get, there is no finish line – there is always room to develop our skill even further. It can be a tedious and painful process, but there is a way to short cut it a little.

Use your video camera (differently)

Videotaping yourself presenting – and actually watching the video – is the only way you can see how your audience is experiencing you. We all know that. But it can be lengthy, tedious process. Here are two “secret” ways to shortcutting the process and picking up on nuances you might otherwise miss.

Different way #1: It’s not what you say, it’s your body language

Shut the sound off. That’s right: watch your presentation without listening to it. Communication is 55% body language and with the volume down all your attention is on your presence. In just minutes (5 or less!) you can easily see how confident, energetic, enthusiastic, charming, engaging, etc. you are.

Different way #2: Did you really mean to move like that?

Watch it in fast forward. It’s amazing how much you can pick up about your presence and body language that you don’t notice at regular speed (but your audience is noticing subconsciously). Are you flapping your arms about, pacing like a lion in solitary confinement, or stuck in a repetitive gesture? You’ll see it right away (that’s right – 5 minutes or less!).

Don’t words matter?

Yes, sort of. Words are about 10% of the message received by your audience. It’s an important 10% that can either be supported or completely undermined and negated by your presence and body language. Shutting the sound off or watching on fast forward removes the distraction of your words and lets you really focus on how you are coming across.

assumptions made // reality unknown

Ugh. Saturday morning and the shiny screwhead caught my eye. The screw was buried deep in the shoulder of the tire. Fortunately, it was still holding air, but it would probably be a slow leak.

I pulled the wheel and took it in to the tire shop. They confirmed my fears – unrepairable; too close to the sidewall. They didn’t have the brand/size in stock so they’d have to order one and it would arrive Monday. Double ugh. Their price was reasonable, but it’s a performance tire and reasonable and cheap are two different things. Triple ugh.

Sunday morning and I’m out on a run. In a moment of oxygen depleted clarity I realize: I made some assumptions, but never verified them. The tire shop took me at my word that the tire needed to be replaced.  The tire was unrepairable, but only if it needed to be repaired. There is a screw in the tread, but I don’t know how far in it goes. The tire itself could be undamaged. The tire was holding air, which a punctured tire will sometimes do. So will an unpunctured tire.

I made some assumptions, but never verified reality.

How often does this show up at work?

We hear a credible sounding rumor and make decisions about it as though it were fact.

We ballpark some numbers until we can get better information but then forget to go back and adjust.

We treat our favorite solution to a problem as though it is the only solution, forgetting that there may be other (and better) ways of going about it.

We fear the worst, assume the worst, and react the worst… before anything has even happened.

We speculate something to someone, they pass it along to someone who a passes it along again until our original rumor is mentioned to us as fact. In our minds, our speculation was confirmed, when the reality was that someone just told us the rumor that we’d started.

Someone tells us how difficult or unreasonable a customer is so we go in with either a defeatist attitude or a chip on our shoulders.

An idea is shot down because, “We tried that before and it didn’t work.” (Yes, tried it halfheartedly by someone with less skill under completely different circumstances.)

We don’t take on something we’re really excited about because we have ourselves convinced that we’ll fail.

We’ll rarely have perfect information, so assumptions can be useful. Make the assumptions, but check the reality.