Posts Tagged ‘communication’

We seem to live in an era when words are more like bullets—a way to injure and defeat others, to get one’s own way—than a way to communicate in a genuine manner, seeking understanding, insight, and mutual respect.

As I write this, the Paris climate summit is underway. We have just about all the countries in the world represented and we’re told this is the “last chance” to “save the planet.” Last chance. Really? Save the planet? I would think the planet doesn’t need us to “save” it. But, like the gospel inspired song said of That Lucky Old Sun, the earth will surely go on rolling around heaven all day. We may be in danger of disrupting our habitat or of damaging it beyond repair (that remains to be seen), such that we, as a species might be endangered. However, a cursory review of earth’s evolution over geological eons will show that it’s been through much worse before and life has gone on.

The zeal with which enviro-enthusiasts (or should I say fascists?) are claiming that it’s our last chance to keep the planet’s temperature from rising by more than 2 degrees is more religious than scientific. The same can be said of the attempts to claim a scientific consensus, as if scientists all agree with everything that’s claimed about environmentalists.

There may be a scientific consensus about the law of gravity, or evolution through natural selection, because the empirical evidence is overwhelming in favour of those theories. I doubt there is even close to the same level of agreement within the climatological community, which is really the only one that counts scientifically. And yet we keep hearing that 95 % of scientists, or whatever the figure is, believe that global warming is a reality. That may be the case, but being a scientist doesn’t automatically qualify someone to judge the validity of scientific theories outside their field of expertise. Just talk to medical doctors with different specialties to see how divergent the knowledge, skills, and judgment are on any particular illness or condition to realize how important these specialized competencies are to coming to a proper diagnosis and prognosis, much less the best treatment plan.

I’m not necessarily a skeptic about climate change and human-caused warming. However, there has been too much environmental change over the eons on earth to claim any kind of stasis in the matter. After all, what caused the end of the most recent ice age 10 or 12 thousand years ago? Perhaps the woolly mammoths and giant ground sloths were expelling too much methane as they chewed their cud. And what caused the planet to plunge into a deep freeze 130 thousand years ago when the current ice age started?

On the other hand, I am a skeptic when it comes to claims that “the science is settled.” Moreover, I find the current climate (pun intended) against questioning this so called common sense consensus to be a dangerous trend. It’s also very convenient for those with a statist centralizing agenda who wish to restrain economic growth and capitalism, because they claim they are the cause of global warming, at least indirectly. How convenient that there be a such an apocalyptic menace for our collective well-being. Nothing less than total war is needed to combat impending doom. And in war, all manner of propaganda and control mechanisms are warranted to defeat the common enemy. Many of the poorest countries in the world are already clamoring for a transfer of wealth from the wealthy countries to pay for African wind farms and human scale solar power units. After all, nothing should be excluded in order to “save the planet,” because this is our “last best chance.” Once again, I’m not arguing against such a wealth transfer (although there are good arguments against one). But I don’t think that haranguing people into feeling guilty is the correct way to go about it.

The use of language as a weapon and words as bullets is just as pernicious in other areas. Activists—or should I say bullies—at the University of Ottawa have gotten management to discontinue free yoga lessons for handicapped people on the grounds that yoga is “cultural appropriation.” In other words, they claim that you can’t use any idea or activity that comes from another culture if that culture was at one time subjugated by another. Presumably, the reference is to British imperialism in India. Is it okay to have Indian cuisine, or Chinese food? Can we Zumba, or do the limbo? After all, they come from Latin America and the Caribbean, originally all slave societies.

Just to be egalitarian, I don’t think war mongers come off any better. The Islamist inspired attacks in Paris, the Middle East and anywhere else are horrible and the Jihadist threat must be met militarily and politically with appropriate means and strategy. But I don’t think we’re in a “war on terror” any more than we’re engaged in wars on inequality, cultural appropriation, climate change, or global capitalism.

Language and words should help us understand and think better, not separate us into sloganeering tribes with faith-based creeds and intolerant beliefs. After all, words aren’t bullets.

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

I know someone who has been asking for clarification about a potential move by his employer. This has been going on for a few years now, and there is no indication of when this move could take place, or even whether it will. Naturally, this has left most employees wondering about their future and starting to take measures to change jobs because of the concern.

There is no reason why people should be kept in the dark about such an important decision. Company leaders don’t have to reveal all the details of their decision process, but they should at least provide a prognosis and some of the factors they are considering. It’s just basic respect for long-time employees and would also clear the air. The company is starting to lose good employees because they prefer to take matters into their own hands than be vulnerable to the whims of their current employer.

What is this unnecessary uncertainty and secretiveness costing the company, its managers, and its employees? There may be risks to giving out too much information, but there are also risks to not giving enough. Managers and leaders must strike a balance between both extremes, and not just assume that too much communication is a bad thing.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Brilliant Manoeuvre
Keep things simple. Complication only leads to confusion and friction.

Most of you know this as the KISS principle. One of the earliest things I learned as a junior officer in the Army was to make tactical plans and orders as simple and as clear as possible. If I needed more than a sentence or two to explain a manoeuvre, it was already too complicated. The US Army had an ad campaign about 10 or 15 years ago with the slogan ‘An army of one.’ When I was on exchange with the US Army, I asked my American colleagues what they thought it meant; they were just as much at a loss as I was. Phillips Electronics reportedly did an analysis a few years back of returned consumer electronics devices and found that fully half of them were still perfectly functional. It turned out that they were simply too complex to operate, with too many controls and arcane instructions. If you have to explain your message, your intent, or your plans, then they are probably too complicated. They should be clear and evident from the ‘get go.’

Whenever you’re creating a message, giving direction, or developing objectives and plans, aim to formulate them at a high school level. This isn’t meant as an insult to the receiver, but rather as recognition that intentions and concepts must be simple and clear. People can’t read your mind, so you have to make things easy to ‘get.’

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

This is the fifth installment in my series highlighting and discussing military leadership principles. Even though these principles have been developed over decades, and even centuries, of military practice, you will find that they are highly applicable to leaders in all walks of life, and especially business.

This principle has two main components. The first is to communicate your meaning and intent, and the second is to lead your people in carrying it them out. To do this, you first have to know what it is that YOU want to achieve. For this, you need a plan. Then you have to tell your followers or subordinates want you want to achieve, the general strategy and scheme of manoeuvre to achieve it, and then your plan to carry it out. You may have to be fairly directive, and give specific instructions to various teams or subordinate leaders, but it is usually best to give them a mission and then let them find the best way to achieve it. In the military, this is known as mission command, as opposed to directive command (where you give every detail of what to do).

Finally, once the plan is being implemented and the operation or project is underway, you have to actively lead your team. This means being at the right place and right time to make decisions, providing guidance and direction to respond to unforeseen events and conditions, correcting mistakes, and providing reinforcement to successful undertakings, encouragement, and generally stiffening resolve in the face of the inevitable obstacles and resistance. In the military, they often say that no plan survives contact with the enemy, and that is just as valid in business and in any other undertaking.

I will continue with the second group of five military leadership principles next week. Have a good weekend.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.