Why Winston Churchill Would Have Approved Of Twitter

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“I didn’t have time to write a short letter so I wrote a long one instead.”

Have you ever had a babbling moment? That’s when we hear ourselves talking in circles while having an internal argument about the wisdom of continuing to speak. When that happens, it’s often a sign that we haven’t spent enough time on the topic to have distilled it to its essence.

The French have a saying on this that I love: “Il a raté une belle occasion de se taire.” Roughly translated: He missed a great opportunity to shut up.

What’s the Twitter-Churchill connection? Churchill was known for reworking his communications until he had simplified and condensed complex issues into words that were clear to all, yet not condescending.

Sounds like a great Twitter success recipe to me.

Twitter challenges us to put out meaningful messages using only 140 characters. If you’re sending a link to an article you just read — you could cheap out and say ‘great read’. I’ve done it. But if you really want people to know what was great about it, you have to be ready to summarize some part of that article into a single nugget of goodness that will make others want to click. Oh, and just to make it a little extra challenging (this is for the over achievers among us) experts such as Kim Garst recommend we limit ourselves to about 80 characters so others have room to add a few words when they retweet us.

I think Churchill would have found delight in challenging himself on Twitter. He might have even enjoyed tormenting his more verbose opponents with it.

Tweet this → Here’s why Winston Churchill would have approved of Twitter.


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Organizational Adulthood

Ever watch a 12 year old walk through a department store, pointing out each and every flaw in design or pricing?  Adolescents are particularly adept at finding and announcing fault. With any luck, and several years’ frontal lobe development, they learn the value of perspective and filtering.

Not everyone learns the finer points of socialization. Witness those who are perpetually involved in disputes.

Organizations go through a similar maturing process. Just like people, they can actually get stuck in the “we say it like it is” or “take me as I am” phase.

Evolved organizations move beyond straight talk and into solution building. “Managing Up as a Form of Corporate Collaboration” talks about the benefits of fearless communications motivated by a desire to contribute.  The post wrapped up with this sentence:

Managing up doesn’t mean seeking to have your way; it means you are sharing information that might not otherwise be known and shows that you trust the more senior group to evaluate your information in the larger context of the organization.

I wrote that post with the greatest respect for management structures and in recognition of the need for all levels to communicate effectively. Top-down, bottom-up… Neither model can effectively stand on its own. We need solid communication skills at every level.

Bringing coaching language into the picture can help people and groups move forward quickly. Decide for yourself. Which of these is more effective?

“I’m disappointed that you haven’t delivered that material to me and I’m losing my patience.”

- or -

“What got in the way of meeting the delivery date you provided?”

The second phrase clearly declares a missed deliverable, but it does so in a way that seeks to understand. The Coach Approach takes a disappointment and turns it into a two-way conversation. It sets the stage for an accountable relationship 100% more effectively than simply telling someone to do something and then growling at them when you don’t get the expected result. It moves us past adolescence and into organizational adulthood.

Email And The Leader vs Manager Debate

Read these two phrases and ask yourself which one most resembles you.

Managers focus on sending out information quickly and efficiently
their goal is to get it off their plate.

Leaders assess message content to determine the best time and vehicle for delivery
their goal is to amplify the results of the team.

The difference is in where we’re centered.  Is it all about you (getting it off your plate) or all about them (amplifying the success of your team)?  Which one is better?

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Walking the Technology Tightrope

There’s a new injury popping up in emergency clinics around the world…  People everywhere are walking into traffic, bumping into parked cars, stumbling, and just generally getting hurt from not watching where they’re going.  The villain?  Texting while walking.

It’s just the latest in what I’m calling Cyborg Morphing.  Rick Mercer says it best in this video (thanks to JD in Winnipeg for suggesting it).

I can’t remember the last time I was in my car without a bluetooth device firmly implanted in one ear — or in the airport without searching for a comfortable seat next to an electrical outlet to recharge a battery.  Like many, I use my Blackberry as a daily alarm clock which means it lives next to my bed and I get to see the red flashing “email waiting” indicator at night as I’m drifting off to sleep (in case you’re wondering, I don’t check email in the middle of the night). 

At a recent sports event I saw at least 20% of the parents in the crowd displaying typical Blackberry posture — head down thumbs flying — as they worked their smart phones.  One parent told me she might be distracted by work from time to time but portable technology for her means the difference between being able to attend or being stuck in front of her laptop in an office and completely missing the event.

PDAs and smart phones are blurring the line between work hours and downtime.  What have technological advances done for you and what behaviours have you found to successfully balance on the technology tightrope?

My Twitter experiment

Have you noticed how experts can distill a complex idea into a short, succinct description we can all understand?  Someone who really owns their topic can deconstruct it into its simplest elements and put it back together in a way that is relevant to the immediate audience.

That’s my attraction to Twitter.  I consider it a leadership development tool in that it forces me to pick just one main point and get to it quickly.  Last week I decided to try speaking in this way — I call it Twitterish.

All great lessons contain surprises and this was no exception.  What I learned is that I need to listen more.  Attempting to repackage my rambling thoughts into fewer words created unnatural pauses.  I found the other person often took that as a sign that I needed more information, and sometimes that additional information took the conversation in a totally different direction — into something more useful to my conversation partner.

So I’ve learned that less is better and sometimes remaining silent helps the real conversation show up.

Capturing tribal knowledge

Today’s workforce is accustomed to sharing and accessing information quickly.  Companies can benefit from the collaborative nature of their workers only if they put the right tools in place.  Some you may want to consider:

  • Sharepoint
  • A company intranet portal
  • Corporate blog

Capture, Listen, Engage.

Who’s Listening to Your Customers?

The single biggest business advantage of social marketing is the ability to gather and learn from unsolicited comments about your services or products.  Whether you call them customers, clients, patients, prospects, contracts, whatever…  They’re talking.  They’re talking on Twitter.  They’re talking on Facebook.  They’re talking – and making recommendations – on LinkedIn.  Are you listening?

Social media is for kids – isn’t it?

Guess again.

  • The fastest growing demographic in social networking is the over 50 crowd. You may be astounded by the growth figures quoted in this Fast Company article.
  • 30% of CEOs have a Facebook page. According to Forbes most CEOs are cut off from their constituency.  Social media can give them just the vehicle they need to plug in.
  • Peter Aceto, ING Direct Canada’s CEO was asked for his thoughts on social media: “This space is all about immediacy. The level of interaction from our clients has surprised and delighted us and it’s kept us actively engaged in the conversation as its coming fast.”  Read the full interview here.

If that’s not enough for you, how about this…

Your competitors are listening to your customers.

 

 

Releasing The Blogger Within

Tempted to become a blogger?  It’s easier than you might think.  Here are 5 steps to get you started.

1. Decide whether your blog will be personal, career based, or corporate.  Who are you writing for?  Your blog can be as public or as private as you wish – your desired readership will determine the content and perhaps even the appearance.

2. Choose a platform.  I love WordPress.  Start up is a breeze, it’s easy to maintain, you can post by email or by phone (yes, by phone!) and it’s totally free unless you want to own your own domain.

3. Write a charter.  This is where you record the purpose and goals of the blog.  The charter will keep your topics consistent and focused.  Your readers will appreciate this and you will spend less time trying to decide what to write next.

4. Make a publishing schedule and stick to it.  The best blogs publish about 3 times per week.  Go for frequency rather than length.  I like posts that are around 250 words.  This will force you to develop 2 awesome habits: brevity and clarity.

5.  Look for writing opportunities within your company, among your circle of friends, and as a guest blogger on others’ sites.  Is there a corporate blog you could contribute to?  Are they looking for volunteers for the corporate Twitter site?  Twitter is, after all, micro-blogging.  This will help round out your composition and creative skills and will expose you to a different group of readers.

Need Help With Your New Blog?

Bloggers are generous people.  Here are some of my favourite sites that will help you get started:

Happy blogging!  Send me a comment on this post and I’ll check out your blog.