The Best Ways to Utilize Dialogue and Communication

Dialogue and Communication

Dialogue and Communication

The articles, books and webinars / workshops focusing on communication (a term that is becoming more and more vague, actually…) are multiplying as rapidly as cat videos online, frankly.

Who to pay attention to? How many are publishing because it’s a way to get clicks, a way to push a new book or membership offer, and how many are really spending time standing upon the shoulders of the giants who have come before (or who are working now…) and seeking ways to execute on the most effective thoughts and frameworks to bring dialogue into our lives and businesses that will change things? Few have the time or patience to figure this out.

I must confess to being caught up in this myself. This goes way back for me, to my early days as a musician and composer. I have always been fascinated by how music can touch that part of a human being in a conversation that goes to a deeper place. We are simultaneously very complex and very simple. Truth, trust-building, the components, if you will, that comprise a close and meaningful relationship with someone are common across us all. While music is as individually interpreted as any other form of communication, the use of words can be more of a challenge due to internally established meanings and contexts for each person.

The complexity comes with what Anthony de Mello calls “our programming”. We are each utterly unique in our make-up and our experiences. As a result, how I react or “hear” something from you is quite likely to be different than how someone else does. Hence my focus on dialogue in all walks of life.

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Innovation and Dialogue

dialogue innovation

Dialogue

How much of innovation is an Isaac Newton-like moment (mythically alone and the apple drops on your head….”AH-HA!”) and how much is something else entirely?

And what IS that something else?

I wrote another article asking if innovation was dead. Looking at the world around us, it seems a mixed set of answers. Some things like Artificial Intelligence (AI), driverless cars and certain kinds of other technology seem to beg the question that innovation is alive and well. But we still have stubborn problems as a culture and a world that seem to defy innovative answers. Some of these problems are so monumentally complex that just trying to confront or define them is hard enough (think eradication of hard poverty, cures for things like cancer or diabetes, nuclear proliferation, economic inequality, how to have a positive outcome with whatever the heck is happening to global environment, etc….).

Getting to a more manageable level, like your business, how do you:
  • keep from being a follower when it comes to coming up with new and different ways to attract customers
  • improve and create new products and services
  • grow your business in scalable ways
  • stand out from the crowd of competitors
and the like?

Going it alone can seem attractive. It can feel like, unless you come up it, it’s not really your innovation or idea. This is a real danger for solopreneurs, as innovation is not the same as churn, and this churn is where many of us live and work. Surrounded by shifting tasks, fluid schedules, never-ending revisions of services and offerings….it can SEEM like Innovation at times, even if it’s just a new way to get through the day in one piece!

It’s not.

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Which is Key for Your Customers: Innovation or Influence?

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Influencer's Universe

The Influencers’ Universe

Any business follows the well-know track of building awareness -> establishing reputation -> making money. Each of these has its own challenges and opportunities for advance and missteps. Ignoring any of them isn’t an option, and you can’t really hop over any of them either, despite the burning desire to get to the “making money” bit.

I recently read an article by Valeria Maltoni entitled How to Increase an Idea’s Adoption Rate. In it she writes of how a couple of individuals became key influencers in their fields, and how one in particular approached this goal with some preconceptions (that, frankly, mirror a lot of thoughts business owners have when going into business or launching new products and services…) that fell flat.

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How Do You Get to Valuable Options?

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Options not Answers

Options not Answers

How many squirrels can you follow at once?

This is the thought that occurred to me while reading a recent article by Valeria Maltoni entitled Inventing Options for Mutual Gain. While describing an excellent process for arriving at options, and not necessarily “the final solution”, I am reminded of Edward de Bono and his book Lateral Thinking that I read years ago. The depth and specifics of this work long ago drifted into the “you don’t need to remember this at a granular level” section of my mind, but one of the descriptions I remember well is that the activity of lateral thinking could be visualized as you digging numerous holes in the ground. Although you may find something of interest, even compelling, in one of the holes you dig, you don’t stop digging. Don’t fall in love with the first appealing thing you come across. Other holes you dig may (or may not) offer up a more creative, more defining, more appropriate solution.

Now it’s true that at some point you’ll need to stop digging holes and bring all these potential answers up to consider, but the initial goal is to discover options, not arrive at an answer. Some of the options may well present you with trade-offs, value to different segments of the answer base (those for whom you are digging, whether they are customers, friend and family, or the factions in your head…).

In her article, Maltoni describes a prototypical strategy session that may be carried out amongst 5-8 people and many excellent points that will allow this group to get to the options, and THEN to a decision based upon negotiation. But what does this look like when it’s just you, the entrepreneur or small business owner?

There are a couple of complimentary approaches you can take.

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FOCUS: Can You Measure the Hard Things?

English: Red button.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all want things to be easy. And it’s not just business, American or Western Society that defaults to easy. While I still worked at Microsoft, one of my managers got our entire team “Easy Buttons.” You pressed the Big Red Button and a voice said, “That Was Easy!”
If only….
We have a few things working against us:

  • The problems and challenges we face today (business, societal and personal) are complex with no simple answers. The kind of effort required to tackle them can’t be splintered into micro-moments of attention (better known as “multi-tasking”…). We need big blocks of time, and lots of them, to work through these things.
  • Our culture prizes Fast, Immediate, Responsive, 24/7/365 over taking the time to gain the ability to learn hard things more quickly and produce at an elite level (so we move past “good enough” to “WOW!”).
  • The difficulty of measuring the complex over the simple (an example – “audience engagement” versus a Facebook page “Like”).
  • The tendency to answer a simpler question when confronted with a difficult one (more on that shortly…).
 As business owners and entrepreneurs, what does this mean?

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Is there Anything Simple About Simplicity?

English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d...

English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d’Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Easy” is a temptation.

I work with many clients who take the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach to their digital and social media marketing, because “How hard could it be? It’s just Facebook??!” Besides, they each have a business to run, customers to satisfy and entice, meetings to attend and maybe even employees to work with.

After spending time with each of them to discern their business and marketing goals, I begin to walk them through some of the opportunities and challenges they face and the different ways to optimize and engage, based on the goals and resources available. As we begin to dig into the strategy and planning, each of these business people begin to see the advantages of “doing it right” and where their current process might be falling short, hurting their business.

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Is Your Tribe Remarkable, Unfocused or Mainstream?

Which Tribe do you belong to?

That seems to be an over-riding, occasionally unsaid, concern in our society. Conservative or Liberal? Religious or Agnostic? One percent or ninety-nine percent? Blue collar or white-collar? Introvert or extrovert? College Graduate? Technical? Gender? Race? We have innumerable ways of identifying, classifying and limiting the understanding of ourselves and those around us.  Labels and categories carry assumptions and expectations, whether they’re true or not. And how much of this relies upon context? It’s something that has challenged our species for all time and it doesn’t seem to be getting better….

That’s a pretty broad brush with which to start a conversation.

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WANTED: Simple, Direct and Terrific Vision, Mission and Goals!

It’s enough to drive you nuts…

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am working through the vision and goals for my business networking chapter. Having arrived at a pretty good idea of how these are different, I run across a number of online discussions about the difference between the vision and the mission.

Sigh….so, I can either ignore this or continue my research and discover if there is anything here that will help me and my team come up with something that will truly help our group.  I’m always up for learning more, so here we go!

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What is the Remarkable Power of a Daring Vision?

I’ve been thinking a lot about vision and goals lately. As the incoming president of my business networking chapter, I’ve been meeting with the outgoing leaders, my leadership team, our regional leadership, and other strong leaders and leadership coaches within the organization, as well as talking with other leaders (not to mention the guidance and advice available from so many in books and online….). I keep pulling back, looking for simplicity and clarity….an awareness of the possible while casting my thoughts wider to “Why?” and larger destinations and possibilities.

The idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals is pretty well known. As a review, S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

  • Specific – Goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what you’re going to do.
  • Measurable – Goals should be measurable. In this way you have tangible evidence that you’ve accomplished them. These can include the Big Goal measurement as well as measured milestones.
  • Achievable – Goals should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, but defined well enough that you can actually achieve them.
  • Results-focused (or Relevant) – Goals should measure outcomes, not activities.
  • Time-bound – Goals should be linked to a time-frame of some kind that creates a practical sense of urgency, or results in tension between the current reality and the desired end-state. Keep in mind the Achievable aspect of the goal when setting the time-frame, of course.

Vision is a different kind of animal. Very different. Setting a goal for monthly sales or post engagement on Facebook for the quarter is not a vision. When building goals we tend to look at the recent past as a starting point and build on that (or, if starting something new, look at a similar process, product or business, try to extrapolate an “oranges to tangerines” comparison…not exact, but close enough…). Creating an effective vision means freeing myself from my existing reality and think broadly of possibilities and destinations. This is not “pie-in-the-sky” dreaming, but a deep look at an ideal future. Several writers I have come across lately use Dr. Martin Luther King‘s “I Have A Dream” speech as an example of visionary leadership. While his goals within that speech included a number of the steps that would be needed to make headway toward the vision, the vision was So Much Bigger. He described exactly what the American scene would look like when the full impact of his goals were felt and implemented. One famous section is:

“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

In your mind’s eye you can see what that looks like! It is so much more grand that the end points of a number of goals.

Goals may be ambitious by themselves. A big one mentioned by another writer was when President John F. Kennedy committed the country to placing a man on the moon and returning him by the end of the 1960s. Huge Goal! But what came after? Other than getting there and back again, what else was there? Hence the problem of coming up with a compelling vision for further space travel and exploration (although a number of futurists, respected scientists and writers try). There is, at present, no strong, heart-stirring vision for exploration and travel that we can, as a society, turn to and say, “That’s it! Let’s go!”

Apply this exercise to your business. When you sat down and created your business plan, you undoubtedly created goals, milestones, and outlined some measurable processes to reach those goals. But, speaking to your vision, why are you actually in business? What does your community, your industry, your world look like as a result of you having created this business, provided what you provide to your customers, and spent so much time and so many resources on its success?

Is your vision a “shining city on a hill”? You can make it so.

Do Your Passions Make You More Human?

Signature of Richard P. Feynman

Signature of Richard P. Feynman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is much too easy to burrow into your business and go deeper into the knowledge, building more depth and expertise in that area so you can be an even better resource for your customers. But doesn’t this turn you into a “one-trick pony”? For example, in my social media consulting business, does it truly broaden my mind and stretch my intellect to become more facile in the inner workings of Facebook and Content Marketing…or is it kind of “more of the same”?

I have other interests. You do, too. How do I indulge them, push the boundaries of my interests, and maybe even develop new ones? I need to consciously expose myself to knowledge I probably wouldn’t otherwise, and I have to set aside the time to do it. This is a challenge as an entrepreneur, but to not do it means that I’m less likely to keep growing intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. There is also a much higher probability that, in exploring some of these new landscapes, I might come across a couple of new ideas that inform and impact my business in ways I have no way of anticipating now.

So, where do I start?

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