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Communication: Chaos to Clarity


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Presentation delivered at the 23 May 2012 Women's Leadership Network (an affinity group of Compass Group).

Presentation delivered at the 23 May 2012 Women's Leadership Network (an affinity group of Compass Group).

Published in: Business, Technology

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  • We’re going to start this evening presentation with a game of Jeopardy.
  • The lovely woman on screen made her acting debut in a famous commercial that ran during the 1984 Super Bowl. The commercial was for a fast food restaurant. What is the name of the restaurant and what line did she make famous? Alternatively what is the name of the actress (answer Clara Peller).Bryant Gumbel on the Today Show interviewed Joe Sedelmaier, the producer of the commercial.Why is she so effective? Joe said, “Because she’s real. Clara is Clara. She’s not doing someone else. There’s a warmth … there’s a magic.”(You can see the interview on YouTube “NCB Interview with Clara Peller.”)
  • Good communication is real … no pretense … clear, to the point. Tell people what they need to know. Clara expected to see a real hamburger, not a big fluffy bun. Everyone is not a great communicator or may have obstacles to overcome … you may need help. Clara was hard of hearing and suffered from emphysema, which limited her ability to speak long lines of dialogue. The story goes that a person sat under a table, outside of the filming range and tapped Clara’s leg when she was to deliver her line.
  • In real life, there is no script. And effective human to human communication is an art that few people intuitively are good at.In personal and business relationship, trust is fickle. Needs to be earned … and re-earned.Common misperception that trust results from Likes on a person’s or company’s FB page. In fact, the nuances of what the industry calls social media are merely a flavor of communication. … Social media is analogous to talking on the phone versus F2F versus video calling, as you might using Skype or a similar service.If I see a lot of Likes on a restaurant’s FB page, it’s human nature that I trust the quality of the restaurant. (In social media speak, this is called the Wisdom of Crowds.)
  • Communication is ambiguousWho remembers the Telephone Game? Sit in a circle.Never assume that communication is understoodHow might the recipient “hear” the message?How will the message be retold? What if all the people in the circle spoke English, but it wasn’t their native tongue? The retelling of the message might be really different.
  • Communication is ambiguousIt’s all about the context of the communication content. The interpretation lies with recipient.When you look at this picture, what do you see? (Pause)Psychologists that practice Gestalt therapy believe that the brain has self-organizing tendencies. The human eye sees objects in their entirety … before perceiving their individual parts. Which is why the eye seems to trick you in seeing one picture clearly, but you need to really focus to see a different picture. The human mind defines the context … a different point of view.
  • Trust is chaoticThere are four generations in the workforce today. Improvements in healthcare. Financial necessity of working past what had been defined as retirement. Vastly different experiences that have defined generations. Life experiences define perspective. Engaging people across generations requires that people appreciate … no, trust … the viewpoint of the other generation … even if they don’t agree with it.The chart is from a survey commissioned by the U.S. army. Published in 2010 … so fairly current data. Baby boomers had babies. Based on their research, by 2020, Gen Y will be the largest group in the workplace.Chart source: Clampet, J. (2010). Understanding a multigenerational workforce. Retrieved from
  • Communication is ambiguousHere is a clearer picture of some of the common characteristics that shaped the perspectives (and communication styles) of each generation.How many people watch “The View.” Why? (BOX)A poll on “The View” web site says Admit it: Sometimes you watch "The View" just to: See if the co-hosts will wildly disagree over a particular Hot Topic. We don’t live in a television show. So, how do you reconcile communication differences when your boss, peer or employee has different life experiences than you? Source: Designing Recruitment, Selection & Talent Management Model Tailored to Meet UNJSPF's Business Development Needs
  • Usually been with the company for a long time. Understand the changes and why they occurred. Understand the politics. They don’t want to be undermined. They expect, and deserve, to have their experiences valued.Build trust by engaging. Ask questions, such as:How did the company start?What has changed since you’ve been here?What’s your opinion of the company’s future?
  • Baby Boomers grew up during a period when stayed with a job forever. They everything changed. I grew up in Pittsburgh. Grandfathers, fathers and sons worked in the steel mills … made good money. Unions were strong and paternalistic. Today there are few mills and fewer unions.Baby Boomers have had to reconcile the idealism of their youth with the realities that come with supporting a family. They understand change.Show respect, ask:What do you think will change in the industry over the next five to ten years?
  • Generation X have a greater need for life/work balance. (Something Baby Boomers can learn from.). So, get to the point.
  • Engage Gen Y by building on their strength of finding solutions. Be sensitive though, Gen Y may not understand the reasoning of the current processes.
  • Social media doesn’t exist.Is anyone familiar with Marshall McLuhan? He was one of the most prolific, contemporary forward thinkers. When television reached the average American living room, McLuhan was quite opinionated about this New Media. One of my favorite McLuhanism is "we shape our tools and they in turn shape us."Image source:
  • Social media doesn’t exist.Here’s today’s trivia. Back in the day … 2006, the term for what we now call social media was participatory media. The Society for New Communications Research was one of the pioneering think tanks. (Their URL is listed at the end of this deck.)The term participatory media quickly changed to new media, then to social media. Today, it’s morphing still. The technologies are increasingly being referred to as digital media or digital communication. “Social business” is the new buzzword for companies that implement “social business processes.” I’ve been a technologist for over 20 years. All technologies converge … into a new, improved, can’t live without suite of integrated apps that will significantly improve employee productivity and the business’s return on investment! (pause) And … they will improve the user experience in an anyplace, anytime environment … across an increasing number of mobile devices. (pause) and the next version will even be better!Big fish companies, like Microsoft and IBM, swallow up little fish companies. The newest “killer app” doesn’t exist. This is why human communication must be fluid. … Adaptable. … Communication is each person’s most valuable possession. (PR release about SNCR.)
  • Social media doesn’t existAs an example, the first version of Microsoft SharePoint was a pure Web portal (site that allows you to view different applications through one window). A later version was built around document management. Today’s SharePoint integrates technologies that can aid information sharing through collaborative communication.The next version of SharePoint (code named SharePoint 15) will include what Microsoft calls a “new app marketplace,” more support for mobile devices and tighter integration with the next release of Office and Exchange.
  • Social media doesn’t exist.Here’s some of the apps that are today thought of as pure social media … they each provide a variety of ways to say the same or near the same thing. The unique quality is the ability for information posted through these apps to quickly go viral … Once posted, sender no longer has control of the information. It’s like the telephone game … with information moving at Internet speed to zillions of users.This retelling, retelling, retelling, retelling of information leads to assumptions, which is influenced by each person who reads and passes on the information. The goodness results from the confluence of ideas. Getting back to the technology convergence through acquisition … YouTube was courted by Yahoo! but ultimately married (as in acquired by) Google. Source:
  • Social media doesn’t exist.Because people are trying to figure out how to best use social media …Social media apps and their developers have super star status (or are wannabe). Remember the media coverage of last week’s IPO of Facebook?Landmark cases defining changes in industry-specific regulations and legislation have yet to emerge.
  • Social media doesn’t existIntroduction to social media … it’s not Twitter … it’s a means for sharing information Differentiators to traditional electronic media: Social media is easily viral, in generation-hype … All technology product vendors want some. All business are told they need some.All e-communications comprise content, containers and connectors.
  • Social media doesn’t existHere’s an example. It’s the profile only of my Twitter account. The tweets are more content that resides in the body container of my Twitter account. RT, marking as a Favorite are all Connectors.
  • ClosingTown halls, F2F communication are a vital part of your communication strategy.Engage others by considering “what makes them tick.” Generational common experiences will give you clues.Consider social media as a tool for idea generation, collaborating, reaching consensus.
  • Value diversity: Is the communication formal or casual? Who are the stakeholders in the communication … the answer lies in the viewpoints of each sender and recipient.Use a variety of media: Don’t overwhelm people. People have different levels of computer savvy … even those who employ social media in their private lives, may have no tolerance for it in their business lives.Democratize communications so that people feel empowered … to contribute … to speak up when they don’t understand something … Except change in viewpoints, impact of e-communication technologies and how they are used.
  • Graphic source:
  • Clara Peller, the “Where’s the beef” actress died in 1986. Clara’s NYT obituary said that the ''beef'' marketing campaign helped increase Wendy's annual revenue by 31 percent. Where’s the beef?” still used as a catch phrase … means to lack quality. Be memorable … for all the right reasons … be realYou’ve made this presentation real for me … and for that, I thank you.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Maurene Caplan Grey Grey Consultingmaking communication work
    • 2. Photo credit: Wendys Commercial, 1984
    • 3.  Communication is ambiguous. Trust is chaotic. Social media doesn’t exist.
    • 4. We’ll be fed at 6 p.m.Where is 6 p.m.located?
    • 5. Breeds groupthink Breeds ideasUndermined by Corrects assumptionsassumptionsInhibited by technology Supported by technologyCreates exclusiveness Creates inclusiveness
    • 6. Population * In U.S. Workforce 41 24 29 6 78 80 46 50 66-83 47-65 31-46 11-31 1928-1945 1946-1964 1965-1980 1981-2000 * In millionsSource: Clampet, J. (2010). Understanding a multigenerational workforce.
    • 7. Barbara Walters Cher Angelina Jolie Lady Gaga(b.1929) (b.1946) (b.1975) (b.1986)Traditionalist Baby Boomer Generation X Generation Y WWII  Vietnam War  “Army of One”  9/11 Loyal  Idealistic  Free agent  Socially connected Dedicated  Competitive  Entrepreneurial  High expectations
    • 8.  Ask questions. Learn from their wealth of knowledge.  Seek them as mentors. You’ll get the inside track of what makes the company tick. They may even see youBarbara Walters as a younger version of themselves.(b.1929)  The company is their identity.Traditionalist They want the company to continue to WWII be successful after they’ve retire. Loyal Dedicated
    • 9.  Give them your full attention. Eye contact, lean forward, don’t check your smartphone.  Seek them as mentors. They experienced the transition from paperCher to paperless.(b.1946)  Their careers are a huge part ofBaby Boomer their identities. They may be afraid Vietnam War of being laid off. High salaries make Idealistic then disposable. Competitive
    • 10.  Don’t’ beat around the bush. They have little patience for preliminaries.  When making a request, tellAngelina Jolie them what’s in it for them. It’s an(b.1975) extension of “tell me what I need toGeneration X know.” “Army of One”  Don’t expect immediate responses to emails or voice mails. It’s “not Free agent their thing.” They mean no disrespect. Entrepreneurial
    • 11.  They like to combine work and play. They are good at multitasking.  Ask questions. They value beingLady Gaga(b.1986) considered part of the team.Generation Y  Innovation is their strength. Status quo is challenged. 9/11 Socially connected High expectations
    • 12. Just anothercommunication channel
    • 13.  Blogs Tags Wikis … more
    • 14. I donuts. This is where I eat donuts. Here I am eating a donut. Here is my favorite donut recipe.
    • 15. HypeConvergenceRegulations
    • 16. DestinationContent Container Connectors Blogs  Website  Likes Photos  Laptop  Links Profile  Smartphone  Location Status  Tablet  Posting Videos  GPS  Voting
    • 17. Content Container ConnectorsMaurene’s Twitter profile, plus Website linkphoto more content Testimonials link
    • 18. Managing multigenerational workforces is an art in itself  Young workers want to make a quick impact,  Middle generation need to believe in the mission,  Older employees don’t like ambivalence.Source: Harvard Business School “Working Knowledge”newsletter, 17 April 2006. “Can you manage different generations?”
    • 19. Suggestions to get you started … Reduce redundancy  Challenge assumptions Reduce ambiguity  Use a variety of media Reuse / recycle content  Build trust relationships Generate ideas  Democratize Value diversity communications
    • 20. Best practices Be aware of what type of feedback works best. Do not stereotype based on generation (or other criteria). Tell others specifically why you appreciate their insights, assistance. Encourage idea generation. Put ideas in practice. Ask questions. Validate your understanding of expectations. Develop facilitated workshops on communicative styles and technologies.Great sites to visit GoToWeb20 International Association of Business Communicators Social Media Club Society for New Communication Research
    • 21. MAURENE CAPLAN GREYFounder, PrincipalO: 845.531.5050C: 845.797.8579twitter: @mgreysite: making communication work presentations strategy workshops writing