Tag Archives: communications

Surprise, Surprise – it’s been a good week

I’ve been really hard on myself at work these past couple of weeks. One of my direct reports reminded me today that I should be proud of how much I’ve accomplished in just the eight-ish weeks I’ve been at the company. Putting this perspective on things made me smile. Of course, I could do more. Of course, I could be better. But work isn’t about perfection. It’s about GSD and learning from your mistakes.

Things are starting to come together. Don’t get me wrong, I have more work on my plate now than I did a week ago, and the pile of to do list doesn’t show signs of stopping. But I’m starting to get a handle on what I need to do to be successful. I’m still not sure if I can do it, but I do my best work when I know what I need to do and can focus on getting it done. When I’m not clear about the steps to achieve my goals is when I flounder. I need to just pick what to do and do it. Getting something done is much better than freezing out of uncertainty, which tends to be my schtick. Well, schtick no more.

I also am so happy that my talented friend is jumping in and committing more contract hours to helping out. He’s just a machine (in a good way.) I’m trying to get over this stupid inferiority complex where I have this deep rooted fear of bringing in people who are smarter than me because people will wonder why I’m on staff in the first place. The reality is that smart leaders hire people who are smarter than they are. I still wish I could be great at everything but that’s not realistic. It’s better to show that I can effectively bring in smart people to get the job done well.

Relatedly, I had a really good conversation with one of my direct reporters today. They have a lot to offer and I need to learn to effectively manage and nurture their potential. If I can get my shit together next year can be really good. I’m glad that I’m not expected to hire a giant team. I can focus on a few key people and try to be a good leader. That means very different things to each employee/consultant. Ultimately a good leader provides clear direction and isn’t flaky on their decisions. Once the leader commits to something they follow through with it unless they have a really good reason to change course. Make a decision, get shit done, learn from said shit, rinse & repeat, repeat, repeat, suds and all.

There is so much more I have to do to become an effective leader. I’m still terrible at communication. Somehow everything I say comes across as defensive or overly critical… unless I just don’t say anything at all. It’s really frustrating that every word that comes out of my mouth is, well, wrong, if there is such a thing as ones words being wrong. I tend to earn trust and respect via my work so people overlook my inability to communicate, but it’s going to hold me back a lot as I try to move up the corporate ladder.

A big part of what I need to work on is listening. With ADHD it is a bad habit to talk out of turn and blurt out things that I am thinking. The real reason I do that is twofold – one, because I tend to forget what I’m about to say and want to get it out before I do, and secondly, moreso, because I don’t know how to actually organically enter into a conversation, say what I have to say, and exit at the right point, without it being too late to talk about what we were talking about a few minutes earlier. Either I’m butting into a conversation too soon or I’m going back to something that everyone stopped talking about once they’ve moved on to the next topic. It’s really frustrating and embarrassing.

I wish I could be one of those people who everyone else just wanted to listen to, because everything I said was stated so eloquently that who would want to interrupt? There is someone at my company who is really good at that, and is equally as frustrated at my foot in mount disease, which I’m trying to curb significantly around them to avoid destroying the relationship. I admire their ability to just say the right things at the right time. I might not always agree with their ideas (actually most of the time I do) but I’m talking more about how they present themselves and their words.

If only I could just copy their demeanor and communications style, but it isn’t quite so easy. In lieu of giving up on being an executive I need to fix this huge challenge of mine. The other option is that I change course and, I don’t know, become a best-selling novelist, or a beach bum in a third world country. You know, at least there are options.

 

Point Made: Improving Communication Skills

When I was a freshman in high school, I took a class called “speech and drama” where half of the year we focused on public speaking skills. One of the things the teacher would say to have us focus on being crystal clear in our speech was “point made.” It was something everyone in the class would get told on occasion, but it practically became a running joke every time I had to talk. Succinctness, if you can tell from the lengthy posts on this blog, is not my strong suit.

Being verbose might be beneficial in a social situation when you’re in a room full of introverts who would prefer not to speak or at a table of people who culturally like to talk a lot to and over each other, it’s not ideal for the board room. While I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I actually believe in my points that I’m trying to make, I’ve yet to uncover how to turn my mush-pot of a brain into quality communication. My boss pointed out the other day that I was verbose and sounded defensive over a project I was in charge of that didn’t go over so well, and speaking of points I agreed with his. Yet I find no matter how hard I try I just cannot in the moment figure out how to produce words that say exactly what I want to say without babbling. It’s especially hard on conference calls as one cannot quickly see others in the room zoning out.

I know I need to focus on improving my communication skills if I will ever be a successful executive. But how do I do this? Yes, there are things like toastmasters and such, but those are more for getting up in front of an audience and presenting. I could use help there as well, but my bigger problem is just general conversational communication. I did not learn this from my parents as my mother is the type who will just talk your ear off and my father, while he’s better at debating, is so convinced that he always has the right answer that he taught me that I’m always wrong (unless, of course, I agree with his POV.) I wasn’t taught that it’s ok to stand your ground or believe in your point so much that you don’t need to constantly defend your point. The more you defend it the weaker you seem, the quicker your conviction foils.

So I have good ideas, just as good as anyone else, yet some people with good ideas get others to buy in and stand behind them and others just get lost to the wind. I can take my ideas and execute on them and then finally people see that they were good ideas. I’m not the type who can just speak with great charisma and get others to join alongside me. That’s what I need to be if I’m ever going to become a successful executive. But is that something that can be learned, or is it just not in my personality? And where could I go to learn such a skills, if it is learnable?