A View from Blue Grotto

Monday, October 16, 2006

Is What You Say What They Hear?

How many times have you finished up a meeting with a co-worker, a subordinate, a boss, even a client, and they stare back at you with glassy eyes, a perplexed look, or, worse yet – as if you were speaking Japanese the entire meeting? In the end, for some, the question remains: is what you say what they hear?

I came across a Harvard Business School Working Knowledge Newsletter article about effective communications. In Loosen Up Your Communications Style (http://hbsworkingknowledge.hbs.edu/archive/3559.html), Theodore Kinni outlines the need for leaders to combine three effective styles of communication: Emotional, Factual and Symbolic.

Kinni presented a statistic I found both amusing and frightening: “… in a 2002 survey of 1,104 employees around the country, 86 percent of the respondents said that their bosses thought they were great communicators. But only 17 percent said their bosses actually communicated effectively.”

Finding ways to connect with your audience is only one step in effective communications. Making sure you give folks the tools to carry your message forward can be even more challenging. Remember, what you say does not always equate to what they hear. Think of the game of ‘telephone’ – how one person interprets your directive directly impacts how it is carried out.

Storytelling is an effective and powerful tool to use in presenting an organizational message. A story—more than a flow chart, a power point presentation, or even a mission statement— has the power to motivate an audience to take action.

Working with Blue Grotto clients on corporate and organizational histories and documentation projects, we see the impact storytelling has on everything from rallying the troops, to defining problems and brainstorming solutions, to crisis communications. Clients found that storytelling promotes the shared vision that strengthens their connection to listeners. And storytelling offers perspectives in a format that is both easily grasped and easily repeated. Imagine how successful you can be when your key message can be retold by staff, your clients, your vendors, even your competition.

Email me with your favorite example of a communicator or storyteller and why that person or business left an impression (hopefully a good one) on you.

Ohayo gozaimas! (Greetings! in Japanese)
Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.