On the importance of crafting your message…

It’s been a lot of years since my undergraduate communications course, but I remember a few tidbits from that long ago class. The most important of those would seem to be that communication, no matter its form involves both the person “sending” the message and the person or people “receiving” the message. In the absence of the sender, you’re just someone listening to dead air. In the absence of a receiver you’re just talking to yourself.

In the mad dash of social media to tell us who’s standing and who’s kneeling, it’s been pointed out by more than one of the people in my feed that the “intended message” of the players to choose to kneel is being largely ignored or misinterpreted . Therein lines nearly every problem with communication. While original intent is important what’s more important is crafting and delivering your message in such a way that it is “heard” by the receiver in a way that matches what you intended them to hear.

Any halfway decent public relations firm could have told the knee takers that a protest centered around the national anthem would draw attention to the cause – but not the kind of attention the sender might want. Despite the old saw, I’ve never been of the opinion that all press is good press. No matter how well intentioned (and I’m not personally willing to even concede that point), kneeling during the national anthem was bound only to attract controversy. Once it did that, the actual intended messages became entirely academic because it was buried under the weight of those rejecting the message because of how it was delivered / how it was received.

My advice? If you’re making millions of dollars a year and are bound and determined to have your voice heard, spend a little money with your favorite public relations professional. Let them help you craft the message and the delivery vehicle. Laying out a few dollars up front so you can shape the dialog instead of inflaming a substantial percentage of your fan base seems like it would have been money well spent in this case.

Justified…

You’ve literally had weeks to get your shit in order. There have been countless meetings in which all the materials have been changed, changed back, and then altered a dozen more times. But for some reason here we sit at 4:45PM the day before the goddamned meeting starts waiting on “final final” changes so we can go forth and kill a few dozen trees in this mad quest to build the Briefing that Saved the World.

Here’s the secret I’ve learned after sitting through, easily, hundreds of very similar gatherings of the great and the good: What you have written on the slides generally doesn’t matter all that much. Conveying information isn’t about the damned slides. It’s about what you say, how you say it, your body language, and the connection you can forge with the person you’re trying to communicate with in the few minutes you’re in front of them. By contrast, 75% of the handouts you’ve slaved over are going to end up in the trash can. If your audience is polite they’ll at least wait until they’ve left the room to throw them away.

I’ve often theorized that if people knew how much time (and salary dollars) were wasted in the endless transition of “happy” to “glad” or trying to pick out just the perfect shade of blue, they’d rise up in bloody revolt. They’d be well justified.

Getting blamed, or Email isn’t communication…

If you stick around any place long enough you’ll find that you’re often able to predict trouble spots in most of your standard and repetitive procedures. The place where I didn’t expect it to show up this week was in finding myself personally responsible for one of the 60 people who just didn’t bother to show up as scheduled.

It turns out that even though 59 other people received the voluminous email messages addressed to “Dear Random Major Event Attendees”, and showed up as directed, email is “not a sufficient way to communicate.” The other, simpler, possibility is that someone just didn’t bother to read and follow the directions that got, literally, every other person on the list to the right place at the right time.

Look, I don’t mind taking my lumps when I well and truly fuck something up. By all means, lay it on. However, when the fault lies plainly on the 1 in 60 that failed to comply, well, I don’t know what to tell you… Maybe plus up the budget a bit so we can hire a full time invitation engraver?

The game of telephone…

“You’re going to be able to keep you current phone number,” might just prove to be as much of a joke as “You’re going to be able to keep your doctor.” After seven days of not having a phone at work, I now possess the capability to have voice conversations with people who are too far away for a good strong yell to be effective. That’s a plus. I didn’t realize how many times a day I used the damned thing until I suddenly didn’t have it. That’s the good news.

The bad news, because there’s always bad news, is that the number people have to dial to reach me is not the old number that “I get to keep.” That, it seems, is a “phase two” of this particular project. Given the sloth-like speed at which phase one has been carried out, I expect to still be waiting for my actual phone line to be assigned sometime when I get back from my Christmas vacation.

In the meantime, the telecommunications gurus have come up with a work around by which apparently every telephone in the universe is forwarded to a different number, somehow magic happens, and calls to our original number end up ringing through at our new location. It’s safe to say that I lack faith in this particular arrangement to be anything more than one of Uncle’s standard cluster fucks. Clausewitz tells us that in war even the simplest things are hard to do. It’s no less true in peacetime as it turns out.

I should have long ago given up on the idea that anything might just work as advertised, but God it would be nice to be pleasantly surprised just this once.

To make us better…

I feel like I should start off by saying there are a number of relatively decent things about my current employment situation. I’m paid reasonably well, I’ve got a fighting shot at retiring instead of dropping dead in my traces, and I don’t have to sling 50 pound bags of anything from one end of a warehouse to another. It’s important to acknowledge that, I suppose, before I start ranting and raving about whatever utter asshattery takes over any given day.

As a sat at the office for a second day with no working telephone and people getting increasingly irate that I was “avoiding them,” though, the perks felt largely insufficient. Look, I loathe talking on the telephone, but in an environment where “communication” is right there in the name of the organization, basic telephone service a pretty damned significant tool. The only thing worse than having one on your desk is not having one. It’s just one of those petty, but constant sources of irritation that makes the day to day minutia of getting anything done exponentially more difficult.

I don’t have the energy to get started tonight on the dull hum of two massive televisions spewing news in every direction or the dozen shouted conversations from one end of the room to the other or the score of other distractors that are apparently going to be a fact of life for the foreseeable future. But, the wise leaders tell us, this change will make us better. While I won’t entirely rule that out of the realm of the possible, thus far it hasn’t proven to be anything more than an enormous pain in the ass.

Print…

As I sat down to write this tonight, it occurs to me that I wrote on a very similar topic more than five years ago. The situation was somewhat different, but it all hinged on the increasingly unbelievable proposition that in the age of electronic communication we’re still printing things out for people to read “later.”

With people running hither and yon armed with a laptop, a tablet, and a Blackberry, there really isn’t any good reason why anyone should need to print out an email and stick it in a file so someone can read it. I’m sure there are reasons it happens, I simply contend that none of them are particularly good reasons.

There are any number of ways the printed word on a high quality piece of paper can be a real joy. Going for the same effect with a run of the mill email feels a bit like going nuclear to solve your backyard bug problem. It’s the year 2016, after all. The second decade of the 21st century.

I simply can’t fathom how “print out that email” is still a thing.

70% (or why I fell in love with my new phone)…

I’ve been struggling a bit to fall in love with my new phone. The “+” form factor just felt wrong in my hand. The balance was off and I found myself needing to use both hands for things that I could do for the last seven years with just a flick of my thumb. I liked the new model well enough, but I wasn’t in love with it.

After spending all day with it at work today, though, I’m getting turned around on all that. I left on schedule after what I would consider a regular day of use at more than 70% charged. With the last phone, I’d usually start hunting for a plug sometime after noon – and that was after giving it a boost during the morning commute.

I’m now officially of the opinion that if battery power alone were the only improvement from the last model to this new one, it would be well worth the upgrade. The new camera is impressive, with live photos being a bit gimmicky. 3D touch is fine and works as advertised – though I don’t find myself using it all that often. I’ve never particularly liked Siri and haven’t given her new incarnation much of a chance to change my mind.

Yeah, I’m a tech junky who probably doesn’t use a third of the capability of the gear in my arsenal. Sue me. I don’t need new and innovative ways to check email or ask for directions. I’m old school enough that typing on the screen is still ok by me. When Apple can beam information directly into my frontal lobe, then maybe I’ll be more interested in doing things the “new way.”

Is the 6S/6S+ a must have upgrade if you’re running the 6? No. Is it a respectable upgrade if you’re coming from one of the earlier models? Oh yeah. It’ll likely knock our socks off.

Even if that big beautiful new battery is the only thing I use to the fullest, it was well worth the price of admission. At some point maybe I’ll even get around to teaching myself how to use all the extra bells and whistles I paid for… or maybe not. It all depends on how and if I can see it improving my workflow in some way. Until then, I’m well satisfied.