The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.
Peter F. Drucker.
If only I could explain why this is so important… and thus proving the quote is true. In working with leaders in real-time high-risk environments we’re always focused on sharpening their observation skills in order to see what they do not know they should be seeing.
In my mind that is a perfect match to Drucker’s view on communication.
Had the honor to conduct two real-time appreciate feedback sessions at Systematic, Danish premier software partner for Healthcare, Public Sector and Defense. Using business actors, the participants were forced to engage and step in to their leadership responsibilities under sometimes extreme circumstances.
During a break, I was shown the video below from the Australian Army. I’m uncertain about the background albeit it appears to be serious and originating around June 2013. The video was shared as an example of clear leadership communication, organizational values and unequivocal behavioral requirements.
In my book, the essential words of Lieutenant General David Morrison says it all:
The standard you walk past is the standard you accept
The quote underlines the O in the leadership TAO, be Observant — and react to what you see. It is true in any leadership situation, be that in the office, in the army or offshore where the “See too it duty” is a legally binding law in the Norwegian sector.
Have a look, spend three minutes on the video and then a few more as you move beyond the military setting and relate the strong message to your organization and personal leadership responsibilities.
A good dozen of lucky participants enjoyed the thinking of Grundfos, SKAT and my esteemed colleague Rikke Lindekilde on the topic of Distance Leadership, often referred to as “virtual leadership”; which I won’t. The leadership is real, it must be; it just happens in a situation where the engaged parties are separated by geography, time, technology and often culture.
Rikke Lindekilde discussing Distance Leadership
It was an inspiring conversation with some important take aways. Besides a few surprising best practice one-liners like “give your team a travel day at home“, “plan the spontaneous coffee breaks” and “trust in change may need structure“, I suggest the following six highlights to be worth a thought:
Distance Leadership is nothing new, the Romans did it. It just happens for more, faster and with greater potential. As much a revolution as urbanization and globalization, it is now almost a post-geographical world, where a surprising number of jobs can be done almost anywhere for anybody.
Distance Leadership makes good conventional leadership better and turns bad to worse. Distance Leadership amplifies both the good and the bad, greatly. As the old adage: “You’re only a leader, if you are being followed” — going virtual in terms of presence makes it all the more important to be proactively observant; the small stuff you see as you move physically amongst your peers will be missing from your virtual eyesight.
Distance Leadership requires aligned expectations and new ground rules – a Contract of Collaboration – motivationally framed as the 3P agreement of Purpose, Product and Process: Agreeing WHY we do it and then WHAT to do and HOW to do it. The latter being very specific in terms of chosen digital tools and timing in which such connections are expected and/or allowed.
Consider using Social Network Analysis as a measurement of how people communicate compared to how they should and would. Strong Social Network Analysis will reveal pivotal players and potential isolation, which you must investigate.
Satisfy all three factors that is required in a group for people to be truly attached: Shared space – a “room” that is ours. Social potential – we have the opportunity to reach out and “touch” each other. Vocalized community – leadership highlighting the advantages and obligations of the belonging.
Consider a “Facebook for Business” solution to increase the social potential. Solutions like Podio and Yammer offer critical functional mass to be worth the time of your group. Seek to offload e-mail and make leader’s participation mandatory — they must drive the effort until content harvest and situational awareness itself will carry the effort.
In addition the discussions confirmed many related comments and recommendations on communication and ePresence from my book “Unplugged – your path to authentic leadership“: Leverage advantages of synchronous vs asynchronous communication. Consider bandwidth in the perspective of facts vs emotions. Remember trust consists of “can” and “will” — and “will” requires presence to be fully appreciated!
And finally — always remember the profound and abundantly wise conclusion most often attributed to Peter Drucker:
Culture eats strategy for breakfast
Unless you address cultural issues first, a strategy of Distance Leadership will fail. As noted: Distance Leadership will make the good better — and vice versa.
Yes, the Kenn Blanchard, originator of Situational Leadership as it departed in to version 2. The quote matters; without feedback there will be no champions. Without someone — the old-fashioned sports coach or the modern leader — to provide honest comments and suggestions there will be no improvement. Feedback must be of the 3C kind — Concrete, Constructive and Caring. And it must be a fulfilling experience!
The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.
Words send to me by dear friends and colleagues now in Delhi, continuing the AMP work I have had to bail out on due to the open heart surgery. With them in spirit, in materials and wishing deep learning for all the lucky Alstom participants. Thank you Catherine.
I fear not the man who has practiced 10.000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10.000 times.
I don’t know when Bruce Lee said this, but it rings true in so many ways. If one practice session takes an hour there’s a dead match with Malcolm Blackwell’s 10.000 hours as a tipping point prerequisite for superior performance. So, hang in there, focus and practice … or maybe just read the book?
By the way — the quote was brought to me by Luc Limère for the Alstom AMP cards; have grouped this with future quotes from the same collection under the AMP-tag.
We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.
It usually takes half a day of hard leadership exercises to get to the essence of the quote. Please read it again, nothing captures the risks and rewards of good feedback better.
Image abstractions and tough role plays may be needed for you to realize how much of your own understanding, attitude and behavior is part of the feedback you’re trying so hard to deliver on a perfectly objective and neutral level.
Only you don’t; everything is in the eye of the beholder, your’s and your feedback too. Knowing you’re part of the equations is part of the solution; any and all feedback starts with yourself and your realization of your role in the interaction, you wish to give feedback.