Learning How Starts with Understanding Why…

effective communication leadership communication leadership culture measurable results poor communication skills poor communications productivity profit profitability profitability killers return on investment Apr 05, 2023
poor communications

A week or two after Matt and I had the hour-long conversation about how he could “get people to do what he told them to do,” he called again to ask what kind of voodoo magic I had taught him… Breaking the golden rule in how he was communicating with each of the individuals on his line team had provided him with an immediate increase in daily productivity and, at least with regards to that specific part of the operation, it was making a dent in a significant profitability killer! But it didn’t have any roots in voodoo or black magic, it was as simple as learning to act on what his team was showing him through their behavior!

OK, so maybe that doesn’t sound so simple… Terms like human behavior and emotional intelligence get quite a bit of attention in the scientific and academic communities so one could easily believe that learning to recognize what any given person needs by studying their behavior is something extremely complicated and would require years of observation. Like so many other things in the world of academia, this has been made far more difficult than necessary!

In chapter seven of Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, Connectors do the Difficult Work of Keeping it Simple, John Maxwell cites John Beckley, former business editor of Newsweek, as saying,

“The emphasis in education is rarely placed on communicating ideas simply and clearly. Instead, we’re encouraged to use more complicated words and sentence structures to show off our learning and literacy… Instead of teaching us how to communicate as clearly as possible, our schooling in English teaches us how to fog things up. It even implants a fear that if we don’t make our writing complicated enough, we’ll be considered uneducated.”

I’m convinced that Beckley’s statement is a big reason organizations lose so much profitability to misunderstandings! I’m also convinced that the same thing applies when it comes to the true simplicity of observing human behavior… I don’t make that statement as some clinician who’s spent thousands of hours in a lab, watching someone through a one-way mirror. I share that from the perspective of a press operator who learned the simplicity of watching for behavioral patterns and was teaching that to his peers in similar roles across North American just a few years later…

In 1998, at just 22 years old and with only a few college credits to my name, I learned a simple approach that had proven to be effective worldwide for observing how someone worked for just fifteen minutes and being able to, with a high degree of accuracy, identify the potential they had for experiencing an injury. Since the framework of this behavior-based safety process tied in so well with John Maxwell’s suggestion of “keeping the cookies on the bottom shelf” (so they’re easier to reach), it was something that made sense to me immediately. And not only did it make sense, it was something I could use in practice right away after learning what to watch for!

I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time, but the simplicity of that framework was really in providing a foundation for understanding why we behave the way we do. Once I had that in my head though, learning how to recognize behaviors through a set of patterns proved to be really simple. When it comes to things that have been made to appear so complicated, like ascending to an almost mystical plane of emotional intelligence or by proving that soft skills like leadership and communication to be VERY tangible, recognizing what our team members need by watching their behaviors shouldn’t be like the cookies that are on the top shelf and can’t be reached without a stool. The simple approach I taught Matt in less than an hour on the phone was based on a pattern we can all follow in every situation where communication matters, so next time we’ll look at how to follow The Platinum Rule and why it’s so important…