"Crisp" is a word I frequently use, especially in business. I love it. For me, it conjures up feelings of: quick and decisive, clean, clear, solid, reassuring, complete, awesome, 100% done done done and delivered to the client to delight them.
Not endless tweaking.
Crisp means done quickly but done really well with a nice unambiguous done-ness to it.
Crisp also has a quality dimension to it. Crisp conjures up excellence, that focused work of art, where all the details are right. Compact, in a wonderful way. Nothing missing, nothing superfluous.
It should go without saying that communication is critical in every aspect of our lives, and the ability to communicate well can make a huge difference to us and our ability to get things done and achieve our goals.
I have a simple formula to guide communication that consists of five Cs:
Clear: It is vitally important that your audience understand what you are saying. Sometimes ideas are hard to get across and it is worthwhile looking for just the right vocabulary, phrases, and analogies to help bring your ideas, concerns, and questions to life. You want to make sure that people can easily grasp what you are saying and that your message is not left open to varying interpretations.
Concise: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” (Leonardo da Vinci) . People have a much easier time engaging with your communications if they are simple and as short as possible. Practice the Art of the Minimum. English is a wonderfully rich language filled with many near-synonyms that have nuances of meaning. It is worth using them to get ideas across with fewer words. I readily admit I can get a bit-long winded verbally, especially when I am excited about the topic, but in written media I have the opportunity to edit and cut out much of what I say, paring my communication down to its essentials. When speaking, it is important to listen to yourself and reign yourself in if you start rambling.
Credible: People engage with your communication if they believe you know what you are talking about. It is critical to establish your credibility on a topic, even if just lightly, by way of your own experiences, education, leveraging other credible sources, etc. The way in which you present the idea should also feel intuitive to your listeners. If your message makes sense to them, it will carry more credibility. Sometimes we have to present non-intuitive things. In those cases, a shift of perspective may make the idea feel more intuitive and produce an “ah-ha” moment for your audience.
Consistent: Your message may well evolve over time, based on a changing world or your changing understanding of the world, but for the most part your message should be consistent. You can easily lose your credibility by changing your story, and people will not absorb a message that shifts.
Compelling: Compelling is a broad term. By it, I mean the ability to grab your audience’s attention, to get them nodding in agreement with your line of reasoning (even if they ultimately disagree with your thesis), to give them an experience with your communication that leaves a lasting and memorable impression on them, that may motivate them to follow through on your call to action.
I didn’t include Copious in the list because it in not always relevant and can at times be a negative. You certainly want to communicate Completely and people absorb a message better when delivered with Constancy, but too much communication, including unnecessarily detailed or repetitive communication, can turn people off, bore them, overwhelm them, annoy them, or otherwise cause them to tune you out. So find that right balance of volume of communication. It’s an art.
One might sum all of these up as Crisp.
As I said in my post on Combining Functions, a team gets far more done than a group of individuals does, if you can develop a culture and a way of working where the challenging/inspiring interactions between the teammates' brains gives you more than simply the sum of the brains involved, where you get a kind of multiplicative effect between the members of the team.
So how do you build a culture that achieves that kind of effect? By practicing collegiality.
Be civil - People can’t work together effectively if they don’t respect each other and treat each other with mutual respect. People are not computers. The deep and incomprehensibly complex emotional layer we all carry around can be a powerful positive tool when channeled as passion, but it is tricky and needs to be handled with care. A critical part of working together effectively is having empathy for others and understanding that how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to challenge each other — you can’t get big hard things done if you shrink away from tough conversations! Appropriately challenging each other is key factor in getting that multiplicative combining function. Just do so with respect and empathy. Likewise, don’t make it hard for others to work with you and to challenge you. Be confident and have a thick skin. Debating an idea with the goal of getting to the best outcome for customers and your company is not personal. Check your ego at the door.
Collaborate - You need to actively engage with each other if you want to get things done together. Be open, let others know what you are thinking and what you know, let them see what you are working on. Be curious and ask questions, get to know your colleagues and try to understand their perspective if it is different from your own. Be hungry to learn from them. Discover, sincerely, what everyone's strengths and weaknesses are and learn how to complement each other. Don’t be afraid to let go, don’t have an overly developed pride of ownership. If the play calls for passing the ball, then pass the ball.
Be reliable - Be someone that others can rely on. If your teammates have hesitation about whether you are going to come through on your part of the puzzle, they will hedge and the result will be sub-optimal. Effective teammates demonstrate responsibility and earn trust through working together. Effective teammates know that when they pass the ball, the receiver will actually catch and run with it. Also, have each other’s back. Be ready to step in and help when you sense a teammate in trouble, but don’t shield them from appropriate consequences — that can reinforce bad habits.
Care - I use caring as a fundamental ingredient in a number of my culture virtues, and that’s because it is so vitally important. You can’t do anything if you don’t care. So, just as you care about your work, your customers, your reputation, etc, you must care about your colleagues. I you don’t care about them, you have no hope of treating them with collegiality.
Have fun! - We don't need to bore ourselves to tears at work. There will of course be up and downs, good days and bad days, tough days and easy days. But overall, the work you do should be enjoyable and it should be enjoyable to work with your teammates. You don't have to be best friends with your colleagues, but it's important to develop a healthy sense of camaraderie in the office and take some time out to play together. It makes your work together better as well as making you happier.
Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark. --Henri-Frédéric Amiel
We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.
--Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Passion is what drives us to get up in the morning every day. It gives us the strength to go above and beyond. It gets us fired up to take on any challenge and accomplish the impossible. Passion comes from a deep belief in the value of what you are doing paired with a deep belief that it is possible to do, no matter how daunting it may look at the outset. I believe that the number one motivator people have is a desire to 'win'. People want to accomplish great things, and they want to be on a winning team. Winning can come in many different forms (visibly delighting customers, winning awards, taking market share, doing good for other people, making the world a better place, making money, doing something considered 'impossible' by most people, driving shareholder value, ...), but that feeling of achievement runs deep in our human nature and passion is both motivator and the fuel for achievement.
Follow your passion — Do things you are passionate about! Life is too short to spend it doing things you are not passionate about. I know this is easier said than done, but it is worth striving for, to the best of your circumstances and ability. Remember that work is life: I believe strongly in a healthy work/non-work balance, but don’t think of work as something ‘other' than life. You spend most of your waking hours at work, so you should consider it a worthwhile way to spend your life. If you are doing something that you are truly not passionate about, you should consider changing, if you can. And remember there are two ways to change what you do: get another job (etc), or change how you do it, so that you can unlock passion in it.
Nurture your passion — Passion needs tending. It can whither and fade if it is not taken care of. Do things that validate and re-energize your passion. For example, when I’m in the office for too long, I can get too inwardly focused and start to feel my spark grow dimmer. Getting out in front of clients, who are the ultimate source of truth in business, always re-energizes me and reminds me why we do what we do.
Share your passion — Passion is infectious. The more you share it with those around you (teammates, customers, ...) the more powerful it becomes as a force for positive change, and frankly the better you feel as you get a positive feedback loop about it from those others. The best leaders are deeply passionate about what they are doing and they infect those around them with their passion. That’s how effective leaders get people willing to walk through walls to see the mission completed. And remember that it only takes 10% of a group believing something for everyone in that group to believe it eventually.
Channel your passion — Passion has a dark side. Don’t let it stray into negativity, blind you, or make you sound shrill. When passion hits a roadblock, it needs to find a way around or through that block. Don’t let it pool up and turn into frustration and eventually something destructive. Never forget to question and challenge yourself and make sure you still believe in your passion and that it is focused on the right things.
I posted the second installment in my Information Supply Chain series on the Crux Informatics blog.
Firms in information-intensive industries, such as Financial Services, need to think more formally about their Information Supply Chains. Informatics firms can help.
I shared some insights on LinkedIn from my experiences on building platforms.
I just published an article on LinkedIn on lessons drawn from my experiences on leading turnarounds: www.linkedin.com/pulse/anatomy-turnaround-philip-brittan
A successful organization with a successful culture undoubtedly has effective leadership at the top. Without leadership, an organization will lack cohesion and drive. Members of that organization will move around randomly and bump into each other, potentially do the wrong things, or do things that are in not sync with each other, eventually leading to frustration and disillusionment. A well-led organization, on the other hand, has a clear sense of where it’s going, clarity of purpose, real drive to get there, and fired up troops who will do what it takes to succeed together.
Both leadership and management are critical skills for senior people in any organization. The skills are distinct but go together. Many people are stronger in one than the other. For example, personally I feel more naturally inclined to leadership, whereas I continually consciously work to improve my management skills.
Have a clear and compelling vision - The team can’t get anywhere if they don’t know where they are going. Organizations are always and only all about the people, and the only way that an organization can get anything of significance done is to rally the people in that organization around a shared vision of where they are going. Not only must the vision be clear and simple to understand, it must also be compelling. People should get out of bed in the morning excited about a day ahead of working on achieving that vision. A vision gives people a sense of purpose, that they are doing something that matters. Financial metrics are not a vision, they are simply the rewards of successfully fulfilling the purpose.
Communicate! - The troops won’t know what the vision is if you don’t communicate. So speak to them frequently, clearly, honestly, and in a confidence-inspiring way. Good communication is one of the foundational skills of any leader. Communication should be frequent and should repeat key themes often, but the mode of communication should be varied, engaging, and not trite, so that people don’t get bored with the message or feel beat over the head with it.
Create a shared sense of destiny - Everyone has to be in this together, including the leader. We all know that amazing feeling of being on a cohesive and committed team. A successful organization, no matter how big or small, should feel that way.
Know your stuff - You can’t bluff. A vision can be based on instincts born of your expertise, but if you are just making it up, people see right through it. A good vision and a good leader are credible.
Be Confident - You can’t expect others to be willing to walk through walls for the organization if you don’t personally fully believe in the vision and in the organization’s ability to achieve it. Others are inspired by a credible leader who shows confidence and commitment, despite the challenges.
Demonstrate execution - The road to success is usually long and hard. Many challenges deter people from continuing. People have faith when they are presented with a vision they can believe in and when they see tangible progress towards that vision, no matter how long the road ahead may be. Tell the team what we are doing next, do it, and then tell us what we did so we can all clearly see the progress and have faith that we will keep progressing.
Empathize - Acknowledge the challenges! Empathize with the pain that people in the organization may be going through. Don’t wallow in it, but recognize it, let people know that they are understood and their hard work and sacrifices are recognized and appreciated. Understanding and acknowledging the challenges is the first step to moving past them with confidence.
Be honest - Fundamentally, people want the truth, no matter how hard it may be. If you mislead people or sugar-coat the situation, you lose credibility. But keep in mind that you can tell the truth in a confidence-inspiring way or in a confidence-destroying way. Inspire confidence -- don’t fan fear. We all want to hear the truth, but in a way that gives us hope for the future.
I believe that Service is not simply a department or an activity, but that — more fundamentally — it is a cultural value. Firms that are delightful to work with have a service-oriented culture. This culture infuses everything they do and is embodied by every person in the company, no matter their role. It is at the heart of putting the customer first and having a primary goal of delighting the customer. We are all involved in Service. Sales, for instance, is a form of service. This is easily seen when you think that customers don't want to be sold something; instead, they want to buy things they value and enjoy. Sales is fundamentally to help the customer buy.
Care! To truly serve customers, you must truly care about them and care about doing a good job. Compassion and empathy for customers and pride of workmanship are both critical. Excellence is caring and cannot be achieved without it.
Be curious. Caring is half the battle. The other half is to know what to do in order to serve well. That comes from really understanding our customers, what their business is, what they care about, what their challenges, opportunities, hopes, and fears are. You need to be able to see the world through their eyes, and that can only happen if you are curious about customers and their business. You also need to thoroughly understand our own business and our products. Value is created only when you connect demand with supply, customer needs with your products and services, in the right way. And to do that, you need to be deeply curious about your business and products. You need to train yourself, ask questions, and listen.
Be confident. Meek service is not satisfying service. We all feel best when interacting with people we respect. Earning respect requires confidence. Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking if we simply concede to all our customers’ demands, we will delight them more, but often the reverse is true: when we’re seen as pushovers, customers lose respect and we lose their loyalty rather than gain it. With meek behavior, we encourage them to mistreat us, and that’s not delightful for either side.
Remember which team you're on. You serve customers, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you are on their team. It is too easy to think that you can earn loyalty by simply siding with the customer and throwing your company under the bus. When I call any company's service desk to complain about something, I hate it when the rep just agrees with me and insinuates that their company is negligent but that’s not their fault. That infuriates me. I know that rep wasn't personally responsible. They don’t need to convince me of that. But I do want them to acknowledge my complaint in a professional way, and take responsibility on behalf of their firm.
Be proactive. The best service anticipates your needs and wants. With curiosity and caring, you are positioned to get ahead of your customers, see things through their eyes, and deliver on things they are likely to want before they even ask.
Copyright (c) 2016 Crazy Peak LLC