This past Christmas one of my closest friends gave me a dish towel that says “Being unstable and bitchy is all part of my mystique.” Knowing that there is truth in sarcasm, and understanding the importance of good communication skills and positive relationships to project success, I’ve decided to recommit myself to improving my relationships through improved communication skills.
Step 1 – Categorize the kinds of conversations I’m having. I figure that being able to identify the different types of conversations should help me engage in each of them in more appropriate ways. Here are a few of the most important that I’ve identified, and some guidelines for each:
a. Historical – Reviewing the past, what happened, what led to things being the way they are today, can be helpful if we learn from the past and avoid making similar mistakes in the future. But blaming the past for the present, and digging up reasons in the past that squelch current action and future possibilities – well, that’s like driving while staring in the rear-view mirror. Get your eyes on the road ahead!
b. Commitment to Action – No mamby-pamby “I’ll try.” or “Well, I’ll see what I can do.” These are conversations where we clearly state our commitment to either finding a way to achieve what needs to be done, or express our determination to invent a way to do it out of thin air or sheer will-power.
c. Possibility Speaking – Creating the future by first conjuring it into being through conversations that explore what’s possible. Use Joel Barker’s paradigm shifting question to pry loose your grip on past precedent and the status quo: “What seems impossible today, but if it WERE possible, would transform <your project, your work, your life, the world> for the better?”
d. Evasive – This is where the “I’ll try.” or “Well, I’ll see what I can do.” conversations fit, or in some corporate cultures it shows up as “We need to study further.”, “We need more data.”, or “We don’t have enough <time, money, people, etc.>” Avoid these like the plague – they sap your personal power and undermine your cred with others. Don’t be afraid to label these for what they are, and either get agreement on something that everyone CAN clearly commit to, or move on to people who WILL make a clear and firm commitment. Life’s too short to spend hanging out with this “wait and see” crowd.
e. Whining and Complaining – Everyone’s got their own burdens, and dumping a load of verbal vomit on others is not going to help me become the kind of leader I admire. Venting can be healthy, but limit it to 2 minutes, or pay a professional to listen to the BMW (b-tching, moaning and whining). Don’t lay that crap on family and friends.
f. Gossip and Bad-mouthing Others – Just don’t do it. It might feel satisfying to rip on other people, but it erodes my integrity and undermines any respect the other person might have for me.
In order to become a more effective leader (and better human being, like Tiger Woods aspires to be) I’m determined to focus on conversations c. and b., spend an appropriate amount of chat time on a., and eschew d., e. and f. like they’re a virulent form of the H1N1 virus.
Wish me luck! – Scrappy Kimberlyby