Category Archives: Communication


29

Mar 2016

Context vs Content | What is context? (Part 2 of 3)

In my work, I have the privilege of working with thousands of successful, highly motivated, ethical and well-rounded leaders every year. One of the most important issues we cover, no matter what the industry or type of organization, is context. Why? Simply put: Because if you’re not able to purposefully create and sustain one context and not another, your ability to be successful and fulfilled – and sustain that success or fulfillment – diminishes dramatically.

I invite you to think about context in 3 dimensions: 1) for yourself, as an individual, as you live your life; 2) for your most important conversations and relationships, and 3) for your organization as a whole.

In my last blog post, Context vs Content – What’s the Difference? I covered individual (personal) context. This blog post is Part 2 of 3 and will focus on interpersonal context; that is, the context you create related to your most important relationships and most important conversations. Part 3 will cover organizational context.

So what, exactly, is meant by interpersonal context?

I invite you to consider and reflect upon the following workplace exchange:

Let’s say Randy and Chalmers work together at a large company. They are friends, their wives are friends, they socialize together, and they play on the same softball team. Randy joined the company 4 years before Chalmers did and Chalmers is now a first-year analyst on one of Randy’s projects. Regarding public identity, Chalmers thinks he’s basically an A player, maybe an A minus on a bad day. In reality, he’s a C, barely holding on, and Randy – his friend and also his manager over this past year – says:

“Chalmers, I’ve got to have a conversation with you and I’m not exactly sure how to have it. My concern is that you may over-react to some feedback I’m going to give you, and you may think our friendship is in jeopardy. Our friendship isn’t in jeopardy now and never will be. But there are some blind spots in your work. I’m calling them blind spots because I don’t see you working on them, and I know you well enough now to think that if you saw them, you’d be working on them. But because I don’t see you working on them, I’m concluding that you don’t see them.

I have another concern – you’re telling me at softball that you want a long career here. My concern is that unbeknownst to you, you’re on a trajectory right now that if it doesn’t change, that’s not going to happen for you. So I’m not sure of the best way to have this conversation… all I know is, we have to have it, because I care about your success, as well as the success of this project.”

The opportunity here is to speak into your concerns as a way to purposefully create context for your most challenging, most important conversations. As we know, this sort of context is not physical, but it’s utterly real and it impacts how you will be listened to, how you will be interpreted. I’m not suggesting that you make up new concerns. The move to make – the new conversational competency to develop – is to speak them if you have them, and do so with sincerity.

Everyone in a long-term relationship knows this: Conversations of self-disclosure are powerful. How different is it for you to share with your spouse “Honey, I’m upset with you about X or Y…” than your simmering in silent resentment about it? How different is the dinner table? How different is the car ride? The bedroom? Think about your historical norms of self-disclosure at work. As a leader, the invitation here is to move the needle toward a bit more business-appropriate self-disclosure, for the sake of consciously producing more powerful contexts for your most important and most challenging conversations.

Outside the military, leadership has gone from “command and control” to “inspire and enroll.” Would you agree? And authenticity and sincerity are enrolling. Most of us have a good BS detector. We also have good authenticity detectors. When we experience authenticity and sincerity in our leaders, it enrolls us, and shifts how we listen. Creating such a context – on purpose – is a key conversational competency.

We claim this:  If your context is strong enough, you don’t have to be impeccable with the content.  That is, if the “space” you create on the front end is strong enough, you don’t have to be perfect with your choice of words and how you move through the actual content of what you want to say.  Are we clear that in the above example, Randy had not gotten to the actual, job-specific content about what Chalmers was or wasn’t doing well on the project?  All of this is context.

How hard was this conversation for Randy?  Think about your experience in similar situations.  To this, we ask these questions in workshops:  How many of us have ever benefited from constructive criticism during the course of our careers?   Every hand goes up.   And how many of us have ever avoided giving it?  Almost every hand goes up.  In these cases, who are we serving?  We’re not serving the other person.  We’re serving ourselves.

We agree with many others who have observed:  Ambitious people want to hear the negative feedback.  Let’s repeat:  Ambitious people want to hear the negative feedback.  Now, do they want to hear it in a context of respect, safety and trust?  Absolutely.  But they want to hear it.   For leaders at every level, and for everyone in the business of talent development, context is key.  The ability to have what may have historically been “difficult” conversations – and to have them well – is tremendously enhanced by the ability to purposefully set context.  And by speaking into your concerns, sharing them authentically with the other person, you are practicing and improving an essential conversational competency.

Remember one of our earlier basic claims:  If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.  This is obvious to most of us.   What we can now add is this – As a leader, one for whom the creation of context is important:   If you always say what you always said, you always get what you always got.  Speaking into your concerns is a predictable way to establish a possibly unprecedented context of authenticity.

Here’s a key question:  Just because you don’t purposefully create a certain context for a conversation, does that mean you don’t have a context?  No!  You already have a context, no matter what.  It just may or may not be one that’s conducive to the results you say you want!

One of the most powerful organizational contexts I have learned is called “Carefrontation.”  Have you heard of this term, or something similar?  If not, when you hear this term, what comes to mind?  What does is seem that this term means?  I characterize it this way:

* Confronting done with care and respect
* Challenging the other in a healthy and supportive way
* I care more about you than having my hands not sweat…
* I care enough about you to enter into a conversation with you that I’m not sure where it’s going to go and how it’s going to go…
* I care more about you than staying in my own physical comfort zone…

In the best-selling book Good to Great, Jim Collins shares characteristics of highly-effective leadership teams.  If you’ve read the book, you may recall his descriptions of teams whose interactions involved healthy, respectful disagreement.  Robust, authentic dialogue.  He shares that one of Intel’s philosophies was “Disagree, then commit.”  While he didn’t use the term Carefrontation, we can see obvious parallels.

In Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, one of the key dysfunctions listed is “Fear of Conflict.”  Again, we can see the power of a context of Carefrontation to enable team members to move past this fear and into the authentic dialogue that characterizes powerful, effective teams.

The invitation here is to adopt your version of Carefrontation as the context for your most important – and most challenging – conversations and relationships.  And speaking into your concerns is a proven and powerful way to begin strengthening your ability to do this.  Once again, this is a conversational competency.  And as with all types of learning, it takes time and practice.

Another way of understanding interpersonal context is this:  How many of us like to know “why” we are being requested to do something?  Or “why” X or Y is now required?  Or “why” X or Y is now the new priority?

Context has everything to do with the “why.”  As a leader, helping your colleagues understand the “why” is powerful.  As someone in a long-term relationship, helping your partner understand the “why” is equally powerful.  Simon Sinek has a wonderful TED talk entitled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action – The Power of Why” in which he makes this very point.  An organization (or relationship) in which a shared understanding of “why” exists – from top to bottom – operates at a very different level from one in which only the “what” and “how” are understood.  Many leaders are seeking ways to bring about decentralized decision-making with strategic intent.  Helping everyone understand “why” is purposefully creating a context that enables this valuable type of decision-making to take place.

I offer the following context-related activity for those interested in moving from learning “about” into learning “to do” and learning “to be.”

CLICK to Learn How to Apply Context to Conversations

I wish you only continued success, fulfillment and contribution – on all fronts.  And   I look forward to hearing from any of you, especially those who are doing the real-world Application exercises!


29

Mar 2016

Context vs Content | What is the difference? (Part 1 of 3)

In my work, I have the privilege of working with thousands of successful, highly motivated, ethical and well-rounded leaders every year. One of the most important issues we cover, no matter what the industry or type of organization, is context. Why? Simply put: Because if you’re not able to purposefully create and sustain one context and not another, your ability to be successful and fulfilled – and sustain that success or fulfillment – diminishes dramatically.

I invite you to think about context in 3 dimensions: 1) for yourself, as an individual, as you live your life; 2) for your most important conversations, and 3) for your organization as a whole.

This blog post is Part 1 of 3 and will focus on context for you, as an individual. Parts 2 and 3 will cover the context you establish for your most important conversations, as well as that which you create and sustain for your organization.So what, exactly, is context?

Webster defines context this way: the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning; the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs; environment or setting in which something takes place.

Without disagreeing with Webster in any way, we also say that context can be understood as “that which goes with the text… and gives it meaning.” And we human beings are apparently addicted to meaning.

The older I get, the more important context is. It’s not physical, but it’s utterly real. And it has everything to do with some of the most important Results we produce in our lives – at home, at work and everywhere in between.

Individual Context

As an individual, your personal context – your personal “come from” – is literally declared into being, spoken into being, thought into being… by your most important “I am…” statements. Think about it. Your beliefs (which are private or public declarations) have the effect of creating this non-physical but very real space from which you take action and interact and produce results in the world. As parents, we intuitively understand the power of these declarations, especially in situations when we see our children saying things like “I’m stupid” or “I’ll never be able to…” or “I’m hopeless.” We could go on and on. We speak ourselves into being, whether we’re aware of this or not, because language creates and generates – it does not simply describe.

Remember the Big Eye metaphor? The overall objective of increasing our levels of self-awareness? Becoming aware of the personal context you have created – and are now still creating – for yourself is a fundamental first step in being able to purposefully make the most important changes you may be seeking to make in your life.

I invite you to consider declaring for yourself a personal context of Abundance (vs. Scarcity); that is, to purposefully “come from” a place of knowing that you are fundamentally already enough. You are fundamentally worthwhile and worthy and valuable as a human being, no matter what you may be doing or not doing. Yes, you are still learning and growing and becoming… and at the same time, you are enough just as you are.

I offer the following 4 context-related activities below for those interested in moving from learning “about” into learning “to do” and learning “to be.”

Click to Download FREE Context vs. Content Worksheet

I wish you only continued success, fulfillment and contribution – on all fronts. And I look forward to hearing from any of you, especially those who are doing the real-world Application exercises!


12

Apr 2013

Relational, Emotional and Conversational Interpersonal Communication Skills

Chalmers Brothers, Certified Coach, Consultant, Trainer, Speaker, Author

Effective Interpersonal Communication Skills – Life-Changing Skills, Go Far Beyond Your Words and Actions…

Each of us, I believe, is born with our unique combination of talents, skills, aptitudes and preferences. Our genetic heritage and biological predispositions are real and have an obvious impact in our lives. Separate from this, however, we can identify at least 5 different competencies that – depending on our jobs, roles and desired Results – can be directly connected to our success, or lack thereof.

Consider:

  •   Technical
  •   Functional
  •   Relational
  •   Emotional
  •   Conversational

Where do we go to improve our competency in the technical and functional areas? For many of us, our schools and our workplaces are the source. In fact, in many schools and workplaces it’s required that we participate in specific types of programs focused on these areas. Given today’s emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and the importance of many different types of technology in our lives, this is understandable.

But where do we go to improve our relational, emotional and conversational competencies – interpersonal communication skills that are essential for happiness, performance and success? Here, the answers are usually not so straightforward. Here, we are often on our own as we seek to improve, although it is the case that more and more organizations are seeing the value in these sorts of programs. After all, in the end, what good are technical and functional skills if we’re not able to work productively with our colleagues to accomplish declared goals? If we’re continually (even if inadvertently) having a negative impact on the mood or atmosphere or culture of our team or organization? If we’re blind to the ways our conversations limit our possibilities, or worse yet – damage relationships, close doors, stifle creativity and erode productivity?

I’m a firm believer in technical and functional training and learning. It’s necessary, but it’s not sufficient! Take a moment to examine these 5 types of competencies for yourself. If you see areas where you – or others – could benefit from improvements in the relational, emotional or conversational domains…interpersonal communication skills that cannot be ignored. I enthusiastically invite you to explore what I have to offer!

If you liked this life coaching post, you will get more tips, be able to ask questions and meet and dialogue with other members when you join my EXCLUSIVE Private Group on Facebook!

Language and the Pursuit of Happiness by Chalmers BrothersBecome part of my PRIVATE MEMBER GROUP on Facebook, exclusively for those who have purchased Language and the Pursuit of Happiness and have a genuine desire to live a happier, more fulfilling and productive life.

Your success is so important to me that I want to make some guidance available through ongoing support for FREE – a way to give you an opportunity to ask some questions, relate your greatest challenges, share your successes and even connect with and be a support to others on the same journey. Next to having a personal coaching relationship with me, this is the best way to apply tools, techniques and insights from my book to your life and get the results you are most committed to achieving. That is why I am extending an exclusive opportunity for those of you who have bought my book.

This group experience will help you to apply concepts for achieving BREAKTHROUGH RESULTS in your personal and professional life.

Click the button below NOW to join!

Join Chalmers Brothers' Private Member Group on Facebook


07

Feb 2013

Beyond the Obvious Interpersonal Communication Skills

Chalmers Brothers, Author, Trainer, Consultant, Certified Personal CoachGiven that many of us are seeking to produce a healthy balance of peacefulness and productivity in our lives – what we may call happiness – what impact might our orientation toward time have upon us? That is, what might the impact be of “living in the past” vs. “living in the future” vs. “living in the present”… again, given that our desired Result is a more solid, more healthy balance of peacefulness and productivity? For most of us it’s obvious that living in the present is most desirable.

Beyond the Obvious Interpersonal Communication Skills

What may not be so obvious is the impact our language has upon our ability to do this. Internal conversations, internal narratives focused on worry and anxiety about what the future may hold and how it may not be to our liking, how we may not be able to influence some negative possibilities… take us away from the present moment.

Internal conversations, internal narratives focused on guilt and shame related to some long-ago incident – and the tendency to repeat these conversations, over and over again – take us away from the present moment. With practice, we can first become better observers (The Big Eye) of the conversations we live in… and then begin to more consciously craft new conversations that empower us and have us gradually spending more and more of our time right here, right now, in the present. The present is the only place from which we can take action, and as such, it is a very powerful place to be! I invite you to find some quiet time to reflect and notice the types of conversations in which you tend to spend most of your time. By understanding that language is a generative, creative force in our lives (vs. a passive tool for describing how things already are) we can use its power to consciously, purposefully move toward the peacefulness and productivity that come from living more and more in the present moment.

If you liked this life coaching post, you will get more tips, be able to ask questions and meet and dialogue with other members when you join my EXCLUSIVE Private Group on Facebook!

Language and the Pursuit of Happiness by Chalmers BrothersBecome part of my PRIVATE MEMBER GROUP on Facebook, exclusively for those who have purchased Language and the Pursuit of Happiness and have a genuine desire to live a happier, more fulfilling and productive life.

Your success is so important to me that I want to make some guidance available through ongoing support for FREE – a way to give you an opportunity to ask some questions, relate your greatest challenges, share your successes and even connect with and be a support to others on the same journey. Next to having a personal coaching relationship with me, this is the best way to apply tools, techniques and insights from my book to your life and get the results you are most committed to achieving. That is why I am extending an exclusive opportunity for those of you who have bought my book.

This group experience will help you to apply concepts for achieving BREAKTHROUGH RESULTS in your personal and professional life.

Click the button below NOW to join!

Join Chalmers Brothers' Private Member Group on Facebook


07

Jul 2012

Business Success Tip of the Week: Conversations for Improving Results

Leadership Training by Chalmers Brothers

A story goes like this: Johnny, a 10 year old boy, goes to work with his dad for Take-Your-Kid-To-Work-Day.  His dad, Jim, is a high-level executive for a major manufacturing company. They spend all day together, through meetings and conference calls and presentations and lunch… Johnny goes everywhere with his dad. At home that night, Jim is feeling great about having spent all day with his son and having had the chance to show him what it’s like in the world of work. At dinner, his wife Ann asks Johnny about his day and what it was like at dad’s office.  Johnny, looking suddenly very sad, shook his head slowly, looked up at his dad and said:  But dad, you don’t DO anything!”

Think about it – leaders get paid to have effective conversations. For corporate executives and leaders and managers at all levels, in a great number of areas, the doing is in the saying… and this is so close, we often miss it. These leadership conversations through effective interpersonal communication skills create context, commitments, accountability, collaborative action… and drive the Results of every organization.

What are your most important conversations, and – being specific – what are the Results you intend them to produce?  How successful are you in producing these Results? What can you change in order to improve your productivity here?

Are there any conversations you currently require – or should require – in your organization? Are there any conversations you currently prohibit – or should prohibit – in your organization? Thinking about conversations this way opens a door to more consciously designing the conversations that create the Results within your organization.

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